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L'année 2005 - The year

Moving ahead on climate change with the US looking on
It was after 6 am when environment minister Stephane Dion struck his gavel and put an end to two weeks of intense negotiations over the future of the Kyoto protocol. Visibly exhausted, even more relieved, he made fists of his hands and collapsed in the arms of other officials of the Montreal conference on climate change to the applause of the thousa nds who like him had spent yet another night trying to save the talks from collapsing in failure.
While Canada had not managed to embark its reluctant southern neighbor on the path to Kyoto or any sort of binding emissions targets, it did avoid leaving it out entirely, wooing a delegation which had stormed out of some meetings and not even attended others during the 10-day talks on the future of the fight against climate change.
In the end the U.S. agreed to non-binding talks on long-term measures to fight greenhouse gas emissions, while the Kyoto signatories, some 35 industrialized countries including Canada, agreed to extend the treaty beyond its 2012 deadline. For many in attendance, it was more than had been hoped, let alone more than what would have been wishful thinking in the final days of talks that were leading nowhere.
Instead of being the death of Kyoto, Montreal and the new action plan named after it will stand out as giving a new impetus to the fight against global warming that participants of the conference heard is doing everything from changing the 5000-year-old ways of the Inuit of the great North to forcing the evacuations of islanders in the South Pacific threatened by rising water levels.
The conference was surrounded by a number of side-events, including the filing of a petition on behalf of the Inuit against the U.S., for being the chief culprit behind the damaging climate change transforming their lives. But of all of them, the conference had kept the best for last, with the 11th-hour visit and speech of former U.S. president Bill Clinton. At least one U.S. visitor will have brought environmentalists and delegates alike to their feet in applause, and the president who championed Kyoto didn't hesitate to take a jab at the current administration, whose delegates at the conference were fairly miffed by his last-minute booking.
Clinton called the Bush administration's assertion that Kyoto could hurt the economy "flat wrong" but however hinted that working with the current administration, which not only rejected Kyoto in 2001 but has resisted any talk of binding emission targets since, could still be possible by putting forward projects involving the use of technology that could achieve similar results without necessarily committing to targets. The former U.S. president also made the case for increased use of alternative energies, from solar to wind power, insisting their cost would dwindle with greater use.
The arguments had all been made in the myriad of workshops and side-events in the course of the two-week conference, but none had the punch of Clinton's star power, evident in the eyes of the hundreds who packed the main conference hall for his speech and later scrambled on top of tables and chairs to have a better look, shake hands and take a picture of the ovationed visitor, giving a sparkle to the drab setting and perhaps even giving a boost to delegates who until then had been "so close" to hammering a deal but had failed to do so.
While the substance of the conference will only trickle out in time, with implementation and follow-ups, many in the early morning hours of Saturday did not hesitate to call it historic. "Distinguished delegates, you have upheld the trust the people of the world have placed in us," Dion said. "We have achieved what many claimed was unattainable - a decison launching a dialogue on long-term cooperative action to address climate change by enhancing implementation of the convention." Hardly sexy, but in UN-speak, a major accomplishment nevertheless.                                                 

L'éclat de la nouvelle politique en Israel
Le troisième attentat suicide à Netanaya depuis le début des affrontements il y a cinq ans peint un paysage péniblement familier au Moyen-orient, même après le retrait israélien de la bande de Gaza et d'une partie de la Cisjordanie. Pourtant la scène politique israélienne n'a rien à voir avec celle d'antan, justement en raison des conséquences de ce retrait.
Non seulement le premier-ministre Ariel Sharon a-t-il claqué la porte du parti qu'il a mené au pouvoir lors des dernières élections, miné par la division entourant le retrait des anciens territoires, mais le nouveau parti centriste de celui-ci, le Kadima, semble voguer vers la victoire, que Sharon se voit partager avec son ancien rival, Shimon Peres. Ancien travailliste (aux antipodes) celui-ci s'est rallié au premier ministre lorsqu'il a perdu la présidence de son parti en fin novembre pour rejoindre les transfuges des grands partis traditionnels d'Israël.
A présent le Likoud pourrait perdre les trois-quarts des 40 sièges qu'il détient lors des élections de mars prochain, tombant même plus bas que le Shas ultra-orthodoxe. Libérés des traditionnels rênes de droite, le Kadima ("En avant" en hébreu) et les travaillistes pourraient, avec les 37 et 26 sièges que leur confèrent les sondages sur les 120 du Knesset, former le prochain gouvernement de coalition. Les grandes lignes du programme de la nouvelle formation se veulent la continuation de la feuille de route israélo-palestienne, et sur le plan proprement intérieur, le développement économique de la Galilée et du Négev ainsi que des réformes institutionnelles réduisant le poids des partis politiques.
Pour ce qui est des anciens partis, voilà qui semble déjà fait. Toujours aussi tenace et futé à 77 ans, Sharon, qui venait de renoncer aux territoires dont il assurait jadis l'occupation militaire et à la fois architecte du nouvel échiquier politique, a indiqué que Peres, lauréat du prix Nobel de la paix âgé de 82 ans, jouerait un rôle important dans les pourparlers israélo-palestiniens si tout se passait comme prévu en mars. Ce serait un ministre de la Paix en quelque sorte, ce qui serait un poste compatible avec celui de ministre des affaires extérieures, que Peres détenait dans le passé, lorsqu'il n'était pas premier ministre, ministre des finances ou dans l'opposition.
C'est une victoire pour le nouveau et inusité duo au sein duquel Peres, sous sa capacité de vice-Premier ministre de la coalition gouvernementale dirigée par Sharon, a aidé à mettre en oeuvre le retrait israélien de la bande de Gaza en septembre envers et contre l'opposition de la droite du Likoud. A peine le Likoud commençait-il à se lécher les plaies que Tzachi Hanegbi, qui avait succédé Sharon au poste de président du parti, un opposant au retrait israélien de Gaza, annonçait son ralliement surprise au parti Kadima dans la perspective des élections anticipées de mars prochain. Quelques jours plus tard c'était au ministre de la défense de faire le saut, poursuivant l'hémorragie de la droite.
D'ici mars une élection aura également lieu en Palestine, en fin janvier prochain, lors d'un concours mettant aux prises le Hamas et le Fatah du président Mahmoud Abbas. Les deux partis risquent de se partager les anciens territoires, le Hamas triomphant à Gaza tandis que le Fatah pourrait remporter la Cisjordanie, plus peuplée mais encore divisée et aux limites controversées, surtout dans la région de Jérusalem.
Le dernier attentat, qu'Israël se promettait de venger, rappelle cependant que lorsque Palestine et le pays hébreu ne sont pas repliés sur eux-mêmes les échanges se font encore souvent à coup d'explosifs. D'ailleurs pour le Hamas la trêve qui avait suivi l'évacuation de Gaza est terminée, ses dirigeants promettant de nouveaux affrontements avec Israël, mais les éclats politiques ne restent pas moins spectaculaires.

US faces heat for spy planes
For an airline that operated in the shadows, the AirCon intelligence shuttle is sure drawing a lot of attention, and fire. Not a week goes by since it became clear that the U.S. sneaked its most delicate prisoners around the globe on unmarked jets, to as clearly unmarked prisons, that a new country hasn't found out it was a hub for the Central Intelligence Agency's special charter service.
At the beginning of the month France joined the club of unsuspecting host nations when two flights were found to have made stop-overs in France in 2002. In all hundreds of flights did the same to destinations like Germany (a Der Spiegel study said hundreds of flight touched down in the country where the U.S. holds major military installations) but also the UK, Ireland, and other countries including Canada and the Czech Republic, gateway to suspected secret prisons holding most wanted terrorists thought of being the "guests" of Washington's new allies in the East, Poland and Romania.
The two countries, the first a recent EU member and the other an applicant, are closely watched by Brussels which made it plain it wasn't pleased to learn about possible installations there, promising sanctions if countries are proved to harbor such camps. Nor were so many European countries, including staunch ally Britain, pleased to see they were springboards for the transfers, requesting explanations from Washington at a time Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice was about to visit the continent.
But the visiting senior official intended to be anything but apologetic as the Bush administration gradually went from allaying European fears on the matter to taking a more aggressive tone to match America's stance against terrorism. Europe stood to gain from Washington's tough stand against terror, U.S. officials stressed, one they should appreciate after having been targeted last year in Madrid and this Summer in London.
U.S. missions were intended to "save European lives" Rice said starting a 5-day visit on the continent, denying that the United States engaged in torture, or that it had violated any U.S. laws or international treaties. But the Secretary neither confirmed nor denied the existence of secret American-run detention centers in Europe and defended as necessary the controversial practice of rendition: arresting a terror suspect in one country and taking him to another country for interrogation or detention.
"Some governments choose to cooperate with the United States in intelligence, law enforcement, or military matters," Rice said. "It is up to those governments and their citizens to decide if they wish to work with us to prevent terrorist attacks against their own country or other countries, and decide how much sensitive information they can make public." Rice later said that US policy was not to allow its personnel, whether on American or foreign soil, to engage in cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of prisoners, what some interpreted as a slight change of position.
Despite recent attacks in Europe, EU countries do not have the same sense of urgency on terror which has been driving US policy since Sept. 11, but remain suspicious after reports of abuses in U.S.-run prisons in Iraq and cases of European suspects held in Guantanamo Bay returning home with tales of mistreatment and deprivation. After initially expressing anger on the alleged CIA camps and counterterrorism missions in Europe, some European countries responded to Washington's tougher stance by toning down their rhetoric, while others even planned to welcome Rice warmly.
Romania not only indicated it would not mention the possible existence of such camps but signed an agreement establishing U.S. bases there. Among them the sprawling Soviet-era facility of Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base has become a key focus of a European investigation into allegations the CIA operated secret prisons where suspected terrorists were interrogated.
The compound was heavily used by American forces in 2001-2003 to transport troops and equipment to Afghanistan and Iraq, and is scheduled to be handed over to the U.S. military early next year. A former Romanian defense minister told the AP that parts of the base were off-limits to Romanian authorities, and the country's main intelligence agency said it has no jurisdiction there. Poland meanwhile said it would investigate allegations of prison on its soil.
Two CIA secret prisons were operating in Eastern Europe until last month when they were shut down following Human Rights Watch reports of their existence in Poland and Romania ABC reported last week. Current and former CIA officers speaking on the condition of confidentiality say the United States scrambled to get all the suspects off European soil before Rice arrived there, sending 11 top al Qaeda suspects to a new CIA facility in the North African desert.
While East Europeans have grown close to Washington, Western countries remain concerned about the possible ferrying of prisoners to countries where torture may be of use. The Washington Post reported early last month that the CIA had begun holding dozens of terror suspects in secret prisons in as many as eight countries, some in Eastern Europe, shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. In early December Human Rights Watch released a list of 26 "ghost detainees" it says are being held incommunicado by the United States at secret foreign prisons.
About 100 people are being held without charges in prisons outside the United States, experts estimate. The HRW list includes Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, arrested in Pakistan in 2003 and suspected of being a top operative in Al Qaeda behind the Sept. 11 attacks; and Hassan Ghul, alleged to have been a courier for Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant in Iraq.
Cases related to the prisons usually generated a lot of attention and tension. Rice's stop-over in Germany where she met with chancellor Angela Merkel, who seeks closer ties to Washington, came as the Post reported that her predecessor's interior minister, Otto Schily, had been informed by the U.S. ambassador that the CIA had flown Khalid Masri, a German citizen suspected of being a terrorist, from Macedonia to a detention center in Afghanistan in early 2004. The man was released five months later after the Americans concluded that they had detained him because of mistaken identity, the report said.
In Canada a public inquiry was ordered into the deporting by the U.S. of Maher Arar to Syria, a country notorious for torture, sparking nationwide outrage. Among the six CIA planes Amnesty International said carried out some 800 clandestine flights was a Gulfstream III later re-registered as N259SK, which allegedly took Arar from the US to Syria where he was detained for 13 months and tortured, AI says.
But many countries were ready to turn the page. In Paris, Defense Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie said last week that there were no secret CIA-operated prisons in France while Italy, Britain and Poland denied knowing anything on the flights. Later European ministers said they were satisfied Rice had assured them that the US did not interpret international humanitarian law differently to their allies.
For its part while the Spanish government said in was convinced U.S. aircraft had broken no law, it stepped up civilian aircraft screening, while the Dutch government served a warning that wrongdoing by the U.S. could cause it to lose Dutch contributions to U.S.-led military missions.
Washington however faced new scrutiny by UN human rights commissioner Louise Arbour who said reports the US was using secret overseas sites to interrogate suspects harmed its moral authority and she wanted to inspect any such centres.

Government falls, Winter election underway
If minority governments are a rarity in Canada, owing to its majority-boosting plurality electoral system, then the same can be said about Winter elections. The long-awaited toppling of the minority Liberal government in the wake of the Gomery report and the withdrawal of the NDP's support of the government, launches what should be yet another acrimonious no-holds-barred campaign ahead of a January 23 vote.
The campaign of course, usually continuous in a minority situation, is hardly just beginning now. A lavish government spending spree, plenty of political snowballs, polling and campaign-like travel stops, even the threat of legal action, all preceded the official parting shot. But if early polls are any indication, Canadians pulled out of their hibernation could return a similar government in the House this Winter.
Two polls last week and one this week put the Liberals slightly ahead, but not enough to win a clear majority. While Canadians seem to want change, they remain reluctant to bring in conservative leader Stephen Harper. Strong Bloc gains in Quebec, where the Gomery inquiry particularly stung, seem to be the rare sure thing, with all their nationalist implications considering the election of a young charismatic, albeit not unblemished, leader to head the Parti Quebecois.
Canadians already up in arms about money going up in smoke, or being passed in stuffed envelopes, won't be too pleased to know Winter campaigns, of which there have been only a handful, are more expensive due to such weather-related factors as indoor bookings, campaign plane de-icing and the cost of cancellation and rescheduling due to bad weather.
"The vote in the House of Commons did not go our way," Martin said as his government collapsed to a no-confidence motion (177-131) in the House. "But the decision of the future of our government will be made by Canadians. They will judge us."
Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper promised to clean house after he joined with the New Democratic and Bloc Quebecois to bring down the government, prompting the first Christmas and winter campaign in Canada in 26 years. Losing support of the NDP, whose backing earlier this year helped Martin escape a previous no-confidence motion by a single vote, was the nail in the 17 month old government's coffin.
Leader Jack Layton said he had not received enough assurances the Liberals would fight the increased use of private health care in Canada, altough this would seem harder to stop if Conservatives were to gain leadership of the country. Martin blamed his opponents for the inconvenience of holding elections during the holidays, what will be an unusually long campaign owing to the holiday break.
Martin had promised to call an election within 30 days of the release of a follow-up report on the corruption scandal expected Feb. 1, but the latest drive to oust the government early gained momentum after the release of the first report, rekindling the furor over the mismanagement of millions in a program to boost patriotism in Quebec. The ensuing rise of support for the Bloc, which only runs there, could make sure a minority government follows this one.
The Liberals say they will run on their record, hoping to dodge Gomery by distancing themselves from Chretien and stressing the health of the economy. Unemployment is at a 30-year low and Canada has been running regular budget surpluses.
Still Canadians say they want a change of government but seem displeased with their options despite digesting the unity of the right made in haste before the last election. Still in part divided, the Conservatives would not greet well another loss in less than two years.

Une femme d'Afrique
A peine proclamée vainqueur du second tour de la présidentielle libérienne, l'économiste Ellen Johnson Sirleaf est déjà sacrée "Dame de fer" de ce pays à l'histoire plutôt morose de l'ouest africain. C'est un adoubement qui accompagne plutôt naturellement toute femme accédant au pouvoir, voir Angela Merkel officiellement élue chancelière - la première - presque en même temps, et de plus en plus fréquent si l'on consulte la carte du continent africain.
Du Libéria au Mozambique, les femmes prennent le rôle fort qui leur est réservé dans certaines cultures africaines, et puisque Merkel constitue une première pour l'Allemagne, ces sociétés n'ont rien à envier aux puissances occidentales sur ce plan. L'élection de Sirleaf en tant que première présidente du continent a d'autant plus surpris qu'elle a remporté le concours haut-la-main, avec près de 60% des suffrages. "Cela aurait été terrible qu'une personne si éduquée et si compétente perde face à un simple footballeur", a déclaré une parlementaire ougandaise.
Pourtant voilà qui serait plutôt tombé dans les normes an Afrique. Mais la grand-mère de 67 ans affectueusement surnommée "Mum" par ses supporters ne manquait pas de compétences, ayant été formée à Harvard et commencé sa carrière à la Citibank et à la Banque mondiale avant d'entrer en politique. Rétablir l'ordre dans un pays qui a connu 14 ans de guerre civile ne sera pas une mince tâche mais il ne s'agit pas de la première embûche que rencontre Sirleaf.
Si elle représente l'espoir pour les femmes d'Afrique, elle n'est pourtant pas seule à se distinguer sur l'échiquier politique du continent qui a connu bien mieux que la tempête Winnie Mandela. En Afrique du Sud d'ailleurs comme au Mozambique et au Burundi, les parlements comptent plus de 30% de femmes, ordinairement chargées de tâches sociales, un chiffre respectable même dans les démocraties occidentales.
Au Mozambique, le Premier ministre, Luisa Diogo, a su établir sa marque en tant que leader, tandis qu'au Kenya, Wangari Maathai a reçu, l'année dernière, le prix Nobel de la paix pour sa lutte contre la déforestation. Au Botswana, l'une des économies les plus performantes du continent, Linah Mohohlo, gouverneur de la Banque centrale depuis 1999, prend progressivement des airs de Sirleaf.
Pourtant la victoire de cette dernière n'a pas été accueillie qu'avec de chauds applaudissements. L'ancien footballeur de 39 ans conteste ces résultats et a déposé une plainte pour fraude, en cours d'examen. Les observateurs internationaux n'avaient cependant rien à signaler de bien flagrant.
D'ailleurs Sirleaf a affirmé son intention de former un gouvernement qui s'attaquerait à la corruption et serait ouvert à tous les partis, ethnies et religions. "Nous nous sommes engagés à former un gouvernement d'unité qui dépassera les lignes de fracture entre les partis, les ethnies, et les religions", a-t-elle déclaré, n'excluant pas un rôle pour son opposant au sein du gouvernement.
Machisme à part, la déception de George Weah se doit peut-être au fait d'être arrivé en tête du premier tour, qui avait opposé 22 candidats le 11 octobre, avec 28,3%, alors que Sirleaf avait terminé deuxième avec 19,8%. Weah projette de s'adresser à la Cour suprême si une commission d'enquête sur les résultats ne lui donne pas raison. Les partisans de Weah comprenant de nombreux anciens soldats ayant maintes fois pris la rue pour accuser la candidate de fraude, celle-ci a plutôt décidé de remettre à plus tard les célébrations de victoire, de peur de déclencher des affrontements, malgré la présence de casques bleus dans la capitale.
Plusieurs sont persuadés qu'une telle élection n'aurait jamais pu avoir lieu sans la présence de l'ONU. Tous ne sont visiblement pas encore à l'aise avec l'idée d'une femme présidente en Afrique. Pourtant il s'agissait bien du dernier poste qu'il restait à combler. La libérienne Ruth Perry fut d'ailleurs la première présidente de l'histoire contemporaine du continent, mais suite à une nomination et non une élection, lors de la transition de 1996. Il a fallu attendre trente ans après Elisabeth Domitien, de la république Centrafricaine, première femme premier ministre en Afrique, pour qu'une femme soit élue chef d'Etat.
L'Afrique mène cependant le Tiers-monde quant au rôle politique de la femme, où elle occupe en moyenne 16 pourcent des postes législatifs. Elle est le mieux représentée au Rwanda, avec 49 pourcent des postes, un chiffre carrément scandinave! En Afrique du sud et au Zimbabwe des femmes occupent le poste de vice-président, soit Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka et Joyce Mujuru.
Le Mozambique et Sao Tomé ont des premier-ministres au féminin tandis qu'au coeur de la puissance pétrolière nigérienne, une femme occupe l'omnipuissant poste au ministère des finances, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
Certes il reste du chemin à parcourir, comme le démontrent certaines réactions à l'élection de Sirleaf, mais celle-ci a mise les femmes sur la bonne voie selon Maathai: "Les femmes ont une excellente occasion de travailler pour la paix et j'espère... que nous allons démontrer que nous pouvons en effet créer le genre d'environnement que les peuples d'Afrique ont recherché toutes ces années.


La banlieue en flammes
Lorsque le premier ministre français Dominique de Villepin et Paul Martin se donnaient rendez-vous la semaine dernière en vue de la première visite officielle du numéro deux français, l'occasion était belle de se réfugier du chaos qui pouvait régner sur le scène nationale. De son côté de Villepin était confronté à une banlieue embrasée suite à la mort de deux jeunes qui se croyaient poursuivis par la police dans les cités explosives à l'extérieur de Paris, et du sien Paul Martin faisait face à la musique après la publication tant attendue du rapport Gomery.
Ce dernier s'en est sans doute le mieux tiré, étant exonéré par le rapport sur les scandales du programme des commandites initié sous Jean Chrétien, même si les libéraux ont piqué du nez dans les sondages, mais alors qu'une sixième nuit de suite virait à l'émeute dans la couronne nord de Paris, de Villepin dut reporter son voyage pour organiser des réunion d'urgence afin de calmer les tensions issues des tours et complexes affreux en bordure de la métropole d'ile de France.
A nouveau les naufragés de l'immigration transformaient un fait divers à caractère contesté, la mort par électrocution de deux jeunes, en cataclysme social de premier ordre. Bientôt les paniers à salade et les CRS ne semblaient plus suffir pour enrayer une contagion qui s'en prenait à des dizaines de villes et quartiers de l'hexagone.
Tandis que le ministre de l'Intérieur Nicolas Sarkozy crachait du feu, de Villepin tentait la voix diplomatique de ses grands jours au sein du Conseil de sécurité, espérant un dénouement plus positif. Le premier ministre a choisi de rencontrer les familles des victimes et les jeunes pour calmer le jeu, sans succès immédiat.
Ensemble pourtant les deux refusaient d'afficher quelque différence: "Notre devoir, à Dominique de Villepin comme à moi-même, c'est de travailler main dans la main, en totale confiance, en totale coordination, a déclaré Sarkozy. Il ne peut pas y avoir de divisions entre nous, et il n'y en aura pas parce que le problème est trop sérieux".
Azouz Begag, le ministre délégué à la Promotion de l'égalité des chances, a cependant été plus critique et a ouvertement contesté "cette méthode de se laisser déborder par une sémantique guerrière, imprécise", en réaction aux termes "voyous et racaille" utilisés par Sarkozy. "Quand on nomme un préfet musulman, quand on dit vouloir donner le droit de vote aux étrangers et qu'on envoie des CRS contre les jeunes de banlieue, il y a un décalage", souligne-t-il.
Après une semaine de voitures incendiées, de commerces saccagés, d'arrestations et même de balles perdues, la crise atteignait le sommet du pouvoir d'Etat avec une brève intervention du président Jacques Chirac qui réclamait solennellement l'apaisement des "esprits".
Pourtant une huitième nuit d'émeutes a suivi, marquée par le saccage de centaines de voitures en Seine-Saint-Denis. Il faut dire que la veille les premiers résultats de l'enquête de l'Inspection générale des services avaient blanchi les policiers, refusant la version populaire qui voulait que les jeunes qui s'étaient réfugiés dans une enceinte d'Electricité de France avaient été pris en chasse par les forces de l'ordre.
La gestion de la crise est matière à contestation alors que deux des trois principaux intéressés politiques glissaient dans les sondages. La cote de confiance de Jacques Chirac était en baisse à 24% tandis que Dominique de Villepin perdait cinq points et passait sous les 40% selon un sondage dans "Le Figaro Magazine". Un peu moins d'un quart des Français faisaient confiance au président de la République "pour résoudre les problèmes qui se posent en France".
Sarkozy quant à lui, accusé par certains d'avoir provoqué les jeunes avec un franc-parler incendiaire, dépassait de Villepin comme la personne de droite que les Français souhaitent voir jouer un rôle important dans les mois et années à venir, avec une côte de popularité plus stable à 47% dans ce sondage enregistré avant les derniers événements. Ces derniers se disputent une farouche pré-campagne en vue des présidentielles de 2007.
Les troubles de banlieue sont pourtant de l'histoire ancienne en France, où le terme de fracture sociale a pris naissance entre les tours de béton largement investies par les communautés immigrantes et où les violences ont déçu plutôt que surpris. Précarité d'emploi ou chômage, pauvreté et oisiveté, la crise des banlieues ne date plus d'hier même si certains jeunes admettaient voir dans l'émeute un genre de "distraction" dans des quartiers qui en offrent peu; des foyers d'insalubrité, de discrimination, de précarité et de désespoir.
Ils sont loins les jours d'unité "Black Blanc Beur" de Coupe du monde. Au coeur de cette crise on reproche cependant au premier ministre de tenter de résoudre sur le vif une crise vieille de plusieurs décennies.
Pourtant les problèmes liés à l'immigration en Europe ne sont pas le monopole de la France. Alors que les Pays-bas marquaient le premier anniversaire de la mort du cinéaste Theo van Gogh, tué au nom de l'islam radical, on faisait état de vives tensions entre les communautés du pays. De l'autre côté de la Manche les autorités britanniques redoutent l'importation des tensions raciales des communautés immigrantes suite aux affrontements entre communautés asiatique et noire à Birmingham de fin octobre.
Les violences ont éclaté après des rumeurs jamais confirmées selon lesquelles une adolescente originaire des Caraïbes aurait été violée par un groupe de jeunes de la communauté asiatique de la ville, soulevant une émeute qui s'est soldée par un mort et 20 blessés. Pourtant la Grande-Bretagne et son multiculturalisme un peu à la canadienne est souvent citée de modèle d'intégration en Europe, notamment en France.
Le modèle canadien, parfois contesté ici, inspire également. L'ancien premier ministre Alain Juppé, qui avait prévu une rencontre avec son ancien chef de cabinet lors de la visite à présent reportée du premier ministre, partagea ses pensées comparatives sur son blogue internet. "Ce qui m'inquiète aujourd'hui, c'est la division qu'on sent se créer entre les composantes de la communauté nationale: Français et étrangers, Français d'origine et immigrés de la 2e ou de la 3e génération, chrétiens (souvent O combien déchristianisés) et musulmans...", écrit-il alors que la banlieue parisienne connaissait une septième nuit de violences.
Au Canada, où il enseigne en réfléchissant à un possible retour en politique, il note que l'acquisition de la nationalité canadienne "donne lieu à une cérémonie à la fois solennelle et très émouvante qui veut montrer qu'il ne s'agit pas simplement d'une formalité administrative mais d'un acte d'adhésion à une patrie, à ses valeurs, à ses lois, à un ensemble indissociable de droits et de devoirs. On m'objectera que ce serait perçu chez nous comme un geste cosmétique. Est-ce si sûr? Dans le désarroi où nous sommes, il faut des "mesures", des "crédits", des "effectifs"... il faut peut-être aussi des symboles, et de l'humanité", ajoute-t-il.
Alors que le premier ministre instaurait l'état d'urgence pour apaiser les banlieues qui comprenait l'utilisation de couvre-feux - une mesure rarement utilisée depuis la guerre d'Algérie - et mettait de l'avant un plan promettant 30 milliards d'Euros pour améliorer l'accès à l'emploi, le président Chirac faisait du "rétablissement de la sécurité et de l'ordre public" une priorité. Mais déjà les jeunes se faisaient plus téméraires, n'attaquant plus seulement la nuit et dans les banlieues. Ecoles et hopitaux ont également été ciblés, tout comme les policiers, dont certains ont même été blessés par balle.
On craint que le violences n'engendrent une spirale de dépression liée à l'impact économique des attaques, dans des régions déjà défavorisées. Ailleurs en Europe on redoute déjà la contagion, des voitures ayant été incendiées en Belgique et en Allemagne.
En Turquie le premier ministre associe la crise aux politiques du port du voile, un affront pour plusieurs membres de la communauté musulmane, tandis que plusieurs autres pays avertissent leurs citoyens des risques qu'ils courent en allant en France, un des pays les plus visités. Peut-être au même titre qu'en 1968, "la République est à l'heure de vérité".

Iran's bad message
The war in Iraq may not have brought sweeping democracy to the country yet but there are frequent reminders that its neighbors have a long way to go to join what the West refers to as the community of nations. The ratification of the Iraqi constitution - one still contested by many in the Sunni community - considered an important milestone on the road to democracy, was marred by insurgent attacks that claimed 17 lives on the same day.
But the peace comparatively reigning in neighboring Syria and Iran is an illusion in the eyes of an increasingly critical international community. Syria first came under fire after the publication of a UN report which blamed it in the assassination of former Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri earlier this year. This was added to the suspicions of arms-trafficking originating from Syria and heading to Lebanon and Iraq.
The report was met by international condemnation and threats to refer Syria to the Security council, which could internationalize sanctions such as the ones the U.S. is observing toward Syria. To attempt to unite internally against international condemnation and pressure which may bring on sanctions, officials of the governing Baath Party in Damascus announced that they would formally reconsider a decision made 43 years ago that stripped hundreds of thousands of Kurds of their citizenship, and would also discuss the prospect of allowing multiple political parties in future elections.
If Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad thought this would leave his oft scrutinized country off the radars he was badly mistaken. His remarks during a meeting entitled World without Zionism calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map" seemed more likelty to come from his early revolutionary days as a street radical rather than from the mouth of a state leader.
While the president has been cleared of suspicions he took part in the kidnapping of Americans during the Iranian revolution, the months since his election have clearly established a break between his presidency and that of Mohammed Khatami, the moderate reformer who was barred from running for a third consecutive term in this year's elections.
Iranians who staged multiple demonstrations across the country on Friday seemed to agree with the statement, holding banners carrying anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian slogans. "Death to Israel, death to America," read many of the placards. The demonstrations are part of the annual al-Quds - Jerusalem - Day protests, which were first held in 1979 after Shiite Muslim clerics took power in Iran.
The remarks swiftly brought immediate international condemnation, led by Israel's charge Iran should be removed from the United Nations. "I don't see such a crazy declaration being made by a head of state, a member of the United Nations. (...) It is unbearable. He cannot remain a member," Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres said.
Since its decision to hand over the Gaza strip and parts of the West Bank, Israel has seen less hostile fire by U.N. members, especially Muslim countries, usually quick to condemn it, and could profit from this change of pattern to move a motion against Tehran. On Friday the Council condemned the statement. Other countries sounded unanimous not only in condemning the comments, but reminding international suspicions about Tehran's nuclear ambitions. While such a line was widely expected from the U.S., it was echoed both in London and Ottawa, sometimes within hours.
"We cannot tolerate comments of such hatred, such anti-Semitism, such intolerance. And these comments are all the more troubling given that we know of Iran's nuclear ambitions," said Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew. Three hours after Ottawa found out about the statement the government called in Iran's top diplomat for a formal reprimand.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Iran must "start behaving in a responsible manner as a member of the international community, cease its pursuit of nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, end its support for terror, and stop oppressing its own people."
Across the Atlantic the reaction was similar and showed a rare unity around Israel. British prime minister Tony Blair's reaction bordered on bellicose. "I have never come across a situation of the president of a country saying they want to wipe out another country," he said. "Their attitude toward Israel, terrorism, their attitude on the nuclear weapons issues is not acceptable. If they continue down this path then people are going to believe that they are a real threat to our world security and stability."
Across the channel, the same outrage as E.U. leaders jointly "condemned in the strongest terms" the Iranian president's call, saying it "will cause concern about Iran's role in the region and its future intentions." Ahmadinejad's comments prompted the French foreign minister to summon the Iranian ambassador to Paris for an explanation. France is one of the European countries that has been involved in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.
Perhaps the ousting of Saddam Hussein has not yet brought democracy to this part of the world, but its hard-line regimes have been singled out by an international community more likely to consider its own diplomatic offensive. In the face of such global furor Iran sought on Friday to smoothe the effects of Ahmadinejad's comment saying through its Moscow embassy that he did not mean to "speak up in such sharp terms." "Mr Ahmadinejad did not have any intention to speak up in such sharp terms and enter into a conflict," the Iranian embassy in Moscow said in a statement, in a first official reaction to strong criticism from the European Union, Russia and others. "It's absolutely clear that, in his remarks, Mr Ahmadinejad, president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, underlined the key position of Iran, based on the necessity to hold free elections on the occupied territories."
Yet Iran's Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki said his country did not recognise the "illegitimate Zionist regime". Perhaps speaking volumes of the state of democracy in the region was the silence of Arab countries, who did not react to Ahmadinejad's comments in any fashion.
Surprisingly some Arabs who did condemn the president's statement were the very ones Iran is hoping will attack Israel, Palestinians. "We have recognized the state of Israel and we are pursuing a peace process with Israel, and ... we do not accept the statements of the president of Iran," Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said. "This is unacceptable."

A vol d'oiseau...    Les plans de l'OMS
Des cygnes croates, des oies chinoises et un perroquet britannique; si une pandémie de grippe aviaire guette l'espèce humaine force est de constater qu'elle épargne déjà peu de races d'oiseaux. Pour l'heure ce n'est peut-être pas exactement Alfred Hitchcock mais ces bêtes tiennent à leur façon la planète en otage. Depuis quelques semaines les craintes de propagation géographique et biologique du virus H5N1 prennent elles-même parfois des proportions d'épidémie.
Multiplication des foyers, absence de vaccin et taux de mortalité important chez les personnes atteintes; les éléments sont réunis pour former le pire des scénarios selon les autorités sanitaires qui ne craignent plus que ce virus hautement pathogène chez les oiseaux passe à l'espèce humaine à la suite d'une mutation et se transmette d'homme à homme, un changement qui rapprocherait davantage de la pandémie. Mais déjà les incidents enregistrés ont eu dans certains pays l'effet de changer les comportements, en commençant par couper la consommation de volaille.
En France afin d'enrayer la chute de la consommation liée à la grippe aviaire on a introduit dans les rayons des produits estampillés "volaille française". L'Australie de son côté envisage de maintenir en quarantaine pendant six jours dans ses aéroports des passagers susceptibles d'être porteurs de la grippe aviaire. L'Union européenne n'a pas tardé à déclarer alarmante la propagation d'un virus qui pour l'heure ne compte pourtant que 62 victimes humaines depuis son apparition en 1997. Mais en quelques mois les victimes et les foyers de la contamination se sont propagés d'Asie, où l'on comptait quelques douzaine de morts en mai, jusqu'en Europe.
De son origine asiatique le virus a atteint la Turquie, une ile grecque et l'on craint sa propagation par la migration des oiseau. Déjà des cas ont été détectés en Suisse, en Suède et en Grande-Bretagne. Pourtant les oiseaux migrateurs ne seraient pas les principaux vecteurs du virus selon des spécialistes qui ont noté des foyers du virus dans des régions, par exemple Moscou, qui ne correspondent pas aux trajets des oiseaux migrateurs. Mais voilà qui est à peine plus rassurant.
On redoute, après un siècle qui en a connu trois, la première grande pandémie du XXIème siècle. Connue sous le nom de "grippe espagnole", la pandémie d'influenza de 1918-1919 avait été un désastre planétaire, ayant causé plus de décès que la Première Guerre mondiale, soit entre 20 et 50 millions de morts. Des experts estiment que le virus tuait 1% des gens infectés alors que par comparaison celui de la grippe aviaire, même s'il a frappé peu d'individus, en a tué presque 90%.
Les 25 Etats de l'UE ont établi un plan d'action visant à organiser des stocks "stratégiques" d'antiviraux et son approvisionnement à travers le continent. Pourtant les seuls antiviraux sur le marché n'offrent pour l'heure aucune garantie de protection contre le H5N1 puisqu'un vaccin n'est pas encore à la portée des laboratoires.
En Grande-Bretagne, un perroquet mort de la grippe aviaire avait été importé selon le ministère britannique de l'Agriculture, démontrant à quelle vitesse, en cette ère des transports aériens, un virus peut se répandre. Un tel cas renforcerait la thèse de la propagation par transport, et donc, intervention humaine. D'où l'interdiction par l'UE d'admettre des importations de volaille vivante, notamment de Russie, où l'on redoute que le virus rejoigne la capitale.
Norvège et Belgique ont quant à eux imposé l'enfermement des volailles pour éviter les contacts avec les oiseaux migrateurs tandis que la Suisse et le Liechtenstein ont proscrit, pour les mois à venir, l'élevage de volailles en plein air. Dans le cas de la Suisse, c'était pourtant déjà trop tard. Chaque nouveau foyer et pays démontre la dimension planétaire du défi.
Lors d'une conférence internationale sur le sujet à Ottawa cette semaine les ministres de la santé d'une trentaine de pays ont fait primer l'importance de combattre le virus et sa propagation sur le besoin de développement ou de stockage des médicaments. Après tout un vaccin efficace ne peut être développé qu'après le début d'une pandémie et exigerait alors un effort à la fois médical et manufacturier qui ne parviendrait à l'origine à immuniser qu'une infime partie des gens infectés.
Le lieu était bien choisi pour discuter d'épidémie puisque l'expérience d'Ottawa lors de la crise du SRAS sera sans doute essentielle si la maladie se déclare à grande échelle. On craint d'ailleurs que se répande comme le SRAS à Toronto la prochaine pandémie: à la suite du voyage d'un seul passager porteur du virus venu d'Asie.

Asian quake aftermath compares to tsunami UN says
Bad weather, rattling after-shocks and spreading disease as the harsh Himalayan winter looms, Kashmir hardly needed new obstacles as rescue and aid workers struggled to assist the tens of thousands hurt and left homeless from a 7.6-magnitude quake which may have killed over 50,000 people. Aid agencies as a whole hardly needed a new emergency of tremendous proportions in a year marked by devastating disasters.
From the Asian Tsunami and the famine in Niger to hurricane Katrina, agencies have struggled to keep up with a string of emergencies. As the fear of a major avian flu pandemic reaches European borders, humanitarian agencies described as "stretched" capabilities already involved in various places, some less mentioned than others, such as Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
The latest quake has been so devastating the UN says the shortfall in aid for victims of the South Asian quake has made the relief situation worse than after last December's tsunami. UN emergency relief chief, Jan Egeland, said the organisation had never seen such a "logistical nightmare". Nato began flying in 900 tonnes of aid last week, but Mr Egeland said a massive airlift was also needed to bring people out of remote areas.
The Kashmir quake required a major aid mobilization but occurred as agencies found out they would have to respond to mudslides in Guatemala and El Salvador as well. The task is no less daunting than relief efforts when a tsunami swept various shores of the Indian Ocean on Dec. 26, at a time agencies were already heavily involved in Afghanistan, Sudan and Iraq.
"It is the worst year that any of us can remember in terms of the sheer number and magnitude of emergencies around the world, and it has strained all of us in terms of personal stamina and institutional capacity," Rudy von Bernuth of Save the Children, tells the New York Times. The sheer size of the latest Asian disaster is enough to discourage the most devoted aid organizations.
As Egeland flew by helicopter over Kashmir soon after the quake he said there was an urgent need to get food, medicine, shelter and blankets to millions of people, his agency estimated some three million people would be left homeless ahead of the fierce Himalayan winter. Already stretched organizations would therefore not only have to respond massively but with an air of urgency as well. Already Egeland fears the world has fallen behind in the race against time. "I fear we are losing the race against the clock in the small villages," he said.
As Canada upped its pledge to the stricken area to over $57 million and its emegency response DART team landed with much-needed relief supplies and doctors, British, German and Turkish teams worked around the clock trying to extract survivors from the debris, occasionally having to suspend their efforts amid fears for their own safety during aftershocks rattling the country weeks after the quake. Dozens of aftershocks have occurred since, including one of magnitude 6.2 and they may go on for weeks, geologists fear.
Sometimes international help must make up for the lack of regional cooperation. Not making matters easier is that, in addition to occurring over the geological meeting of two tectonic plates, the disaster occurred on the geopolitical fault line of Kashmir. Pakistan was reluctant to take up India on its offer to help tens of thousands of people hit by the massive earthquake despite a new warmth in ties.
The area is disputed territory between two nuclear powers and accepting Indian help would mean giving Indian troops access to Pakistani Kashmir, the area worst affected, in addition to speaking volumes of Pakistan's inability to manage the disaster. It also represented a security threat according to authorities, the area being the home base of Islamist guerrillas fighting against New Delhi's rule.
But then last week India and Pakistan tinkered with the idea to open the border dividing the Kashmir region for the first time in decades as aftershocks from the deadly earthquake on Oct. 8 continued to shake northern Pakistan. For the first time in 16 years, people across the frontier would be able to speak to relatives by phone in what was seen as the first sign that Pakistan and India were trying to bridge some of the political differences to help quake victims.
Still Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said he trusted Indian officials very little, while they retorted in kind that fifty years of war was hard to forget. For days an emergency aid camp sat empty on the Line of control as the countries squabbled on politics.
All this red tape created an opening for land-savvy militant groups. By far the most active organization working to help has been Jamaat ud-Dawa, an offshoot of the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. Because of its long connection with the region, the group has been able to step in quickly where the government response has been slow. And though the quake killed many Kashmiri militants, the disaster is giving them help in financing and a chance to raise their standing among the people, something their leaders have been quick to capitalize on.
Meanwhile the UN launched an international appeal for $525-million of emergency aid to Pakistan prompting some 30 nations to provide relief supplies and manpower, but Egeland says more help is needed. Musharraf said the money would not start to rebuild the country, which could take billions. That is becoming a familiar refrain after a year of widespread disasters on all continents.
"This week we are working on both the hurricane in Guatemala and the earthquake - and that's just natural disasters," said Christophe Fournier of Doctors Without Borders. "Then you have the manmade disasters, like that in Niger, where we have treated more than 35,000 acutely malnourished children already; Darfur, where insecurity is resuming again; and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the population is constantly being displaced."
In Darfur violence has caused the evacuation of UN relief agencies. But when they are not physically or logistically challenged, agencies have donor fatigue to worry about. This has been a concern as record-setting contributions following the tsunami turned to a trickle by the time pledges for Katrina were advertised. And these were only the most publicised disasters among the litany that are leaving aid agencies scrambling.
"One of the things that really concerns us is not just our own potential exhaustion but the impact on the public of all these emergencies," von Bernuth said. "Appeals we have launched three or four months ago for places like Zimbabwe and Ethiopia have never gotten any attention from the public, and this one isn't off to a great start."
Agencies complained the crisis in Niger was allowed to grow because of a slow international response initially. Africa as a whole is the slowest to receive badly-needed aid. The UN World Food Program says it got little response to two food crises in Africa because of the growing international demand for aid. Agencies are keeping their fingers crossed no new emergency erupts on the horizon.

Enfer au paradis
Cette année il y a eu Londres. L'année dernière Madrid, puis avant Casablanca, Istanbul, New York... Mais depuis trois ans l'Indonésie est  proie au terrorisme au moins une fois par année, un odieux bilan dans un pays si fier de faire figure de patrie d'un islamisme modéré.
Pourtant les violences que connaissait l'archipel depuis plusieurs années étaient plutôt d'ordre régional et reliées au séparatisme de certaines parties aux extrémités du pays, mais alors que l'Aceh semble être sur la voie de la pacification, l'islamisme radical parait conserver la capacité de commettre des attentats malgré une série d'arrestations et de procès.
Après quelques coups de filet notoires, la police avait peut-être commencé à se sentir plus à l'aise et penser que le pire était passé, écourtant les sentences de personnes reliées aux attentats de 2002 lors de la traditionnelle amnistie présidentielle.
A présent les autorités et services de sécurité ne savent plus ou donner de la tête, ayant échoué dans leur tentative de prévenir une attaque malgré un resserrement récent du dispositif de sécurité fondé sur des renseignements précis.
Le nouvel attentat de Bali qui a fait 19 morts et plus de 100 blessés le 1er octobre est survenu presque trois ans après celui qui avait fait 202 victimes, dont 88 australiennes et 2 canadiennes, foudroyant le tourisme et plongeant l'ile dans une période de ralentissement économique. Le pays entier et a ressenti les conséquences.
Alors que certains observateurs limitent l'étendue de la portée économique de ce dernier affront au tourisme balinais, pour d'autres ces nouveaux attentats, entre autre à Kuta, le coeur du tourisme sur cette ile paradisiaque, renforceront le message de la précaution et désigneront le pays entier en tant que lieu à haut risque.
Soulignant l'aspect répétitif de ces attentats, une famille australienne qui avait échappé aux attaques de 2002 était à nouveau au coeur du récent sinistre, des survivants qui pourraient comme bien d'autres changer leurs projets de voyage dans l'avenir.
Quelques jours après l'attaque, Jakarta faisait appel à la retenue des pays occidentaux au chapitre des avertissements de voyage, mais déjà certains pays comme la Nouvelle-Zélande avaient emboité le pas et découragé leurs vacanciers de séjourner en Indonésie. L'Australie en avait fait de même quelques jours avant les attentats.
Les autorités indonésiennes étaient à la recherche de deux Malaisiens dans cette enquête qui a révélé une nouvelle facette du macabre: l'utilisation d'attaque-suicide, alors que les anciennes méthodes impliquaient l'explosion de bombes piégées qui généralement épargnaient les responsables.
La malédiction sévit ainsi à nouveau dans «l’île des dieux» et est pointée du doigt une organisation bien familière qui à priori avait été décimée selon les rapports du renseignement antiterroriste indonésien. L'enquête s'est presque immédiatement orientée sur la piste de la Jemaah Islamiah (JI), allié régional du réseau Al-Qaeda,
"Ce qui est clair et important dans cet événement, notait un des responsables de la sécurité au pays, c'est que tous ces groupes qui agissent depuis un certain temps disposent encore de capacités opérationnelles. Ce groupe n'est pas mort. Il continue de recruter activement."
Selon les services de sécurité JI est aux prises avec des divisions internes, une partie prônant la lutte armée tandis qu'une autre aime mieux prêcher devant les fidèles et condamne le nombre élevé de victimes musulmanes de ce genre d'attentat. Encore une fois, les victimes des derniers attentats étaient majoritairement indonésiennes.
Deux des leaders en fuite de la Jemaah Islamiah, les Malaisiens Azahari bin Husin et Noordin M. Top, sont recherchés après cet attentat dont les kamikazes, plutôt ce qui en restait, ont fait l'objet d'une macabre exposition publique pour aider l'enquête.
La vidéo amateur d'une des trois explosions, prise par un touriste, montrait un homme vêtu d'une chemise noire et d'un jean pénétrant dans un bar bondé de Kuta Beach avant d'exploser.
D'après les éléments recueillis par les enquêteurs, les bombes ont été fabriquées avec du TNT. Des billes métalliques et des morceaux de verre ont également été utilisés pour en accroître l'impact mortel.
Depuis octobre 2002 à Bali, l'Indonésie a subi plusieurs attentats, dont une attaque à la bombe près de l'ambassade australienne l'an dernier et devant l'hôtel Marriott de Djakarta en août 2003 dans laquelle douze personnes avaient péri et 150 autres avaient été blessées.
Les derniers attentats figurent au compte des troubles dans l'archipel, ou sévit une grippe aviaire qui a fait plusieurs victimes et ou d'importantes manifestations ont eu lieu contre la hausse du prix du mazout.
Pour certains il n'est plus permis de douter de la furie des dieux.

Melting doubt on the environment?
The world looks quite different from up above. Increased use of commercial satellite imagery from Google Maps to wall-size video displays on CNN's Situation Room give a new perspective on the well-mapped world we live in.
In September the images were those of devastation, from the flooded streets of New Orleans and other ravages of hurricanes devastating the US Gulf coast to the shrinking polar icecaps over Canada's great white attic. Could both be related?
The scientists at NASA, who have long lost their monopoly on this spacely perspective, and other agencies using in part Canadian satellites and weather observatories, are at least pointing out one fact: The floating cap of sea ice on the Arctic Ocean shrank this summer to what is probably its smallest size in at least a century of record keeping, and the trend calls for even less summer ice.
What sounds great for Northern navigation is striking alarm bells across the world: less ice means the sun's rays are met with less reflection while more open water absorbs solar energy, heating the oceans. Perhaps never had human-caused global warming been so neatly, and alarmingly mapped out.
The consequences could be dramatic scientists say, upsetting ecosystems and marine life, and with the melting icebergs and glaciers, accelerated rise in sea levels, threatening coastal areas. In other words, more New Orleans, North America's Venice from hell.
The area affected is many times the size of small countries. Between 1979 and 2000 the smaller summer-size Arctic cap was 5.35 million sq km, a bit more than half the size of Canada. It was last measured 20% smaller in September.
"It's the least sea ice we've seen in the satellite record, and continues a pattern of extreme low extents of sea ice which we've now seen for the last four years," says Mark Serreze of the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center. At a time of the year it is at its smallest, the area has been recorded shrinking for a fourth consecutive year, so by now it's no great secret, but the stunning visuals of the meltdown remain shocking.
At the current rate of shrinkage of approximately 8% per decade there may be no ice at all during the summer of 2060. "I think the evidence is growing very, very strong that part of what we're seeing now is the increased greenhouse effect. If you asked me, I'd bet the mortgage that that's just what's happening," Serreze says.
A continent away, could rageing hurricanes leaving owners paying mortgages on condemned flooded homes also be related to global warming? At least one leading British scientist thinks so, and adds U.S. climate change policy is partly to blame.
"The increased intensity of these kinds of extreme storms is very likely to be due to global warming," Sir John Lawton, chairman of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, told a newspaper. "If this makes the climate loonies in the States realize we've got a problem, some good will come out of a truly awful situation."
His target, U.S. president George W. Bush, pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol in 2001 - saying it was too expensive and wrongly excluded developing nations from a first round of caps to 2012 - regardless of the fact that his country accounts for one-quarter of the world's greenhouse gases.
Next month the first meeting of all signatories of the Protocol, which caps emissions in a number of countries since it took effect this year, will be held here but already Environment minister Stephane Dion is dousing expectations it will achieve much, saying it will likely take years to hammer out a post-Kyoto Protocol deal.
After all the world's biggest polluters, the U.S. as well as bustling China and India, aren't signatories, and even some of those who are, such as the U.K., seem to say Kyoto's goals to cut 1990 emissions levels by 5.2 percent for 2012 aren't realistic.
In an apparent about-face bringing his position closer to that of the U.S. and other recalcitrants, Blair said "no country is going to cut its growth or consumption" despite environmental fears, a "brutally honest" admission by his part. "To be honest, I don't think people are going, at least in the short term, to start negotiating another treaty like Kyoto," he said.
Even the conference's host, Canada, has increased, by nearly a quarter,  rather than reduced emissions since Kyoto. A recent report of UN experts offered one alternative to sending industry's carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in order to cut pollution and global warming: burying it underground.
The report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said existing technology developed in the oil and gas industry, ironically,  should be used to safely store the emissions in geological formations to clear the air, an expensive solution at first which may become more feasible with economies of scale, better technology and government policy.
Bringing an economic argument the experts say such practise could boost output in oil-producing plants, lower the cost of mitigating climate change by one-third over the next century and potentially account for half of emissions reductions needed between now and 2100 to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.
"While the most important solutions to climate change will remain energy efficiency and cleaner energy sources, this new report demonstrates that capturing and storing carbon dioxide can supplement these other efforts," said Klaus Topfer of the United Nations Environment Program.
Of course by the time the project becomes feasible there could be little ice or New Orleans left to look at, some argue. Perhaps that's why Google's all-seeing satellite didn't bother to map out the Arctic.

Afghanistan's tomorrow
It may not have been the smoothest electoral process, as seven candidates were killed in the lead-up to Afghanistan's parliamentary elections, but the vote to elect a body to bring some checks to the country's strong presidency drew 12 millions registered voters, over 50 percent of whom cast ballots in the country's second election in months.
President Hamid Karzai, whose powers will remain tough to match because parliamentarians aren't united by parties, expressed "relief and satisfaction" that the vote had come off without major incidents, and stressed that the fact that Afghans had voted in spite of all the threats against them and the killings in the weeks before the elections was proof that Al Qaida had been defeated in Afghanistan.
Al Qaida perhaps, but many other militants lurk, most of the violence being blamed on the Taleban, held responsible for over 1,000 killings this year alone, the worst toll since the 2001 war which ousted them.
After four years of heavy foreign military presence, the head of a country with a history of defeating rather than accepting it says it is time to rethink heavy-handed attacks by U.S. and other Nato troops, noting their shrinking impact and the number of civilian casualties which sometimes result from them.
Karzai's increasing hints it may be time to pack up come after his requests to have more say on military operations in his own country were largely ignored by U.S. commanders. Of course as the leader of a country which recognises it has a security crisis and cannot pay for its security, Karzai's hands are largely tied.
But Nato forces are changing their tactics, once limited to airstrikes of limited surgical value. Canadian JTF2 commandos recently captured and killed military insurgents in the country, pointing to greater participation by ground-level special forces in operations.
The need for the foreign military forces is evident in areas ruled by former Taleban, especially on the largely out-of-bounds border area with Pakistan. As he detailed the need to "reconsider and rethink the approach to defeat terrorism," Karzai stressed the need to focus on "the sources of terrorism", largely interpreted as meaning neighbouring Pakistan.
While Pakistan professes it is doing its share to rein in militants in its own country, President Pervez Musharraf must have recognised some failures when he proposed building a fence along the border with Afghanistan to curb the movements of militants and drug smugglers, a proposal dismissed by Karzai.
When he isn't criticising a heavy military presence on his territory, increasingly deplored by his citizens, Karzai is appealing to foreign countries for more more aid, and perhaps less foreign control about where it goes. "We have just begun the foundations," he said. "Institutionally we are very weak."
The country lacks the resources to run basic services and struggled to raise $350 million in revenues last year, hardly enough to pay for its own army, police service and administration, he said. While he would prefer future economic support in the form of direct investment rather than funds to relief organizations, some rightly claim Afghanistan is not yet fully ready to manage financing, some $10 billion of it having come in since 2001, pointing to creeping corruption.
Some of the problems are more directly related to the recent electoral process. Of the 207 would-be candidates who had their own army, only 32 were disqualified, creating fears warlordism will limit Afghanistan's ability to administer itself.
Among the 5,800 candidates who ran, recycled Taleban leaders are being given a second chance. The former deputy-minister for vice and virtue, no doubt the most controversial ministries of the ousted administration, is among them.
Mullah Qalamudeen felt comfortable campaigning in the violence-torn east of the country as few could, and promises to take up arms if parliamentary democracy dilutes Islamist causes in the country's constitution. Barons of the opium trade were also on the ticket.
While they represent part of the internal threats Afghanistan still faces, external threats are not lacking. In addition to the militant support expected to pour from over the Pakistani border, an ill-defined area despite the century since it was drawn by the British, terrorist tactics which have increased the death count this year showed the signs of bomb-making skills suggesting the influence of insurgents from Iraq.
This all leaves the presence of 11,000 Nato troops in the country, not to mention double the number of US troops, quite necessary, including the arrival of new Canadian troops expected to represent Canada's largest contingent overseas.
Defense minister Bill Graham has not missed an opportunity to point out the dangers of Canada's mission in the volatile south of the country as it increases its presence there by 1,000 extra troops. In addition to ensuring security, the troops will be in a reconstructing mission in Kandahar, a region that sorely needs it, in a country that can still do with all the help it can get.

L'Allemagne attend son chancelier
L'Allemagne a beau être réunifiée depuis quinze ans, la division du mur persiste après la dernière élection du Bundestag qui à priori devait couronner la première femme et premier citoyen de l'ancienne Allemagne de l'Est au poste de chancelier.
En moins d'un mois les 20 points d'avance de la candidate conservatrice Angela Merkel ont disparu comme une pinte un soir d'Oktoberfest, ses 225 sièges ne suffisant pas à former un gouvernement avec son allié naturel, le FDP (61 sièges) tandis que le social-démocrate Gerhard Schroeder (221) qualifiait sa survie politique de victoire.
«Nous avons réussi ce qui semblait impossible à de nombreux professionnels, estime Schroeder. Malgré des résultats catastrophiques, la CDU prétend à un rôle de leader, mais ça ne marchera pas ainsi. Je suis certain que nous pourrons faire en sorte que l'Allemagne ait un gouvernement stable sous ma direction.»
Merkel ne put que prononcer la seule certitude: la fin de la coalition vert-rouge de Schroeder qui animait le pouvoir depuis plusieurs années. Le prochain gouvernement revêtira sans doute l'allure de «grande coalition» rassemblant des frères ennemis de la CDU et du SPD. «Nous avons un mandat clair pour diriger ce pays, a néanmoins déclaré Angela Merkel. [...] Malgré les conditions difficiles, il faudra négocier et je considère que j'ai un mandat.»
Pour plusieurs, cette impuissance des deux gros partis traditionnels se devait à la scission récente des extrémistes du parti socialiste, sans laquelle le SPD aurait sans doute ravi un nouveau mandat, malgré la stagnation économique qui alimente le chômage. «Les deux grands partis n'ont pas de majorité parce que nous avons décidé de nous lever et de nous présenter», se permit Oskar Lafontaine, un des auteurs de cette déchirure de la gauche.
Dans l'immédiat la réaction boursière à l'imbroglio politique a semé la panique chez les marchés qui ont chuté en Allemagne tandis que l'euro perdait du terrain face au dollar. La crise politique en Europe, aggravant une stagnation économique datant de la réunification, renforce un malaise continental.
La division des forces en Allemagne, pilier de l'Europe, est aussi conséquente au niveau communautaire qu'au niveau intérieur, où d'importantes réformes économiques devaient voir le jour pour changer la donne. En fait l'environnement actuel rappelle la dernière fois que les partis fédéraux allemands ont formé de «grande coalition»: Entre 1966 et 1969, en pleine crise économique. "S'il y a «grande coalition» il y aura stagnation" résumait un analyste allemand au Herald Tribune.
Les investisseurs qui ont augmenté leurs avoirs allemands pourraient repenser leur optimisme envers l'économie allemande, ajoute un autre. L'incertitude est coûteuse. Comme pour renforcer ce point Siemens annonçait 2400 licenciements le lendemain du vote.
A l'image de sa plus grande puissance, l'Europe paraît déchirée par les crises internes qui l'empêchent de former un bloc, donc une voix et une politique unies, des qualités pourtant louées lors de son intervention sur le dossier nucléaire iranien. Alors qu'un des moteurs de l'UE a remis la cause constitutionnelle en question, la France lors de son rejet référendaire, l'autre repousse l'élan de réformes économiques estimé vital à l'étendue du continent.
Une forte voix allemande est également importante sur le plan des relations avec les Etats-Unis, que Merkel voulait relancer, et sur la prise de position à propos de la Turquie, dont celle-ci rejette l'adhésion, à la veille de l'ouverture des discussions préliminaires sur l'accession d'Ankara.
La division allemande montre quant à elle que les événements d'il y a quinze ans n'ont pas en un coup de marteau mis un terme à trente ans de séparation physique. En effet pour plusieurs observateurs le rejet des grands partis se doit à l'appui de la gauche dure dans la partie orientale, un schisme qui a coûté à Schroeder sans enrichir Merkel, jugée trop conservatrice dans une région du pays très attachée au secteur public.
"Le parti de la gauche est un phénomène de l'Est qui a changé le panorama politique, souligne le sondeur Richard Hillmer, il a privé les camps politiques traditionnels de la majorité". En effet plus d'un quart des voteurs de l'Est ont élu ce briseur de majorité, mais à peine 5 pourcent à l'Ouest.
Plus qu'un rattachement aux valeurs, c'est un choix qui se doit entre autre au chômage (18%), qui est le double de celui de l'Ouest. Un rappel que la reconstruction se fait avec beaucoup de lenteur malgré les milliards versés à l'Est.
Consolation pour Merkel, les chrétien-démocrates ont serré les rangs autour de leur candidate à la chancellerie et l'ont réélue à la tête du groupe parlementaire avec 98,6 % des voix. Mais les formations politiques allemandes, parties à la pêche à la coalition, reviennent toujours pour l'heure bredouilles de cet exercice.
Schroeder ne semble pas bénéficier d'un pareil vote de confiance au sein de son parti. Quoiqu'il advienne, ses jours en tant que chancelier sont sans doute comptés selon certains membres de son parti qui trouvent que même si le scénario d'une "grande coalition" se concrétise, celui-ci devrait laisser place à la relève.
Schroeder a déjà indiqué qu'il se retirerait si Merkel en faisait autant et le SPD gardait la gouverne du pays. Mais pour l'heure le SPD exclut toute négociation approfondie avec ses rivaux avant le résultat d'une élection partielle à Dresde, qui a lieu le 2 octobre. Prolongeant une incertitude peu rassurante dans le reste de la communauté européenne.

Katrina's devastation
It wasn't just the devastation, awesome enough on this scale, or the lack of electricity and air conditioning, expected after such a disaster, but drinkable water, food and shelter were also in short supply. Then it was the refugees, the lack of order and, some would argue, lack of planning and compassion. Could this also be America?
It was days after hurricane Katrina hit the southern U.S. and moved north, spreading destruction but ultimately becoming little more than a downpour and disappearing, and on Thursday New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin sent out a desperate S.O.S. worried about the chaos and violence which has overtaken his city in the wake of the natural disaster.
The Big Easy had plainly descended into anarchy as corpses lay abandoned in the streets while fights and fires broke out among growing violence that involved
looting, fire-fights, even rapes. Authorities originally sent to rescue survivors seemed to be increasingly used to keep them from tearing themselves apart and had powers to shoot to kill.
By Friday National guard trucks started arriving with troops and supplies while President George Bush visited the disaster area stretching across the Gulf coast of Mississippi and Louisiana and up to Alabama, but by then many were deploring the poor response to the worse natural disaster in American history. Bush called the initial response of local and state emergency services "not acceptable", but a day before he had praised its "good work".
Many felt the first test of the new Homeland Security department had been a failure, but the state level had also failed, perhaps unsurprising since top Louisiana emergency officials had just been indicted for mishandling disaster funds.
Officials soon feared potentially thousands of deaths as the result of the devastating hurricane while frustration, fear and anger mounted in the most stricken areas despite the promise of thousands of National Guardsmen, a $10 billion recovery bill in Congress and a relief effort President Bush called the biggest in U.S. history.
About 15,000 to 20,000 people who had taken shelter at New Orleans convention center grew increasingly hostile by the end of the week after waiting for buses for days amid the filth and the dead. A military helicopter tried to land at the convention center several times to drop off food and water but the rushing crowd forced the choppers to back off. The scene was akin to the rush seen in depleted Third world refugee camps.
"This is a desperate SOS," Nagin said in a statement. "Right now we are out of resources at the convention center and don't anticipate enough buses." When he wasn't reading from a script the mayor made his disappointment clearly felt. "Don't tell me 40,000 people are coming here! They're not here! It's doggone too late. Now get off your asses and let's do something!" he screamed in a radio interview.
"America's tsunami", "Nature's Nagasaki", "Baghdad under water". The expressions were at times flamboyant but there was no escaping the cruel reality that was the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.
The U.S. armed forces were designating a task force just for the event in what is being called the most elaborate rescue operation in U.S. history as the category four hurricane brought devastation to Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama despite early relief it had missed directly hitting New Orleans.
The Pentagon ordered five Navy ships and eight maritime rescue teams to the Gulf Coast to bolster relief operations as worsening conditions overwhelmed the initial response. In fact the relief expressed late Monday after Katrina tuned North East and narrowly avoided the Big Easy head-on was short-lived, turning to desperation on Tuesday when two levees defending the city - which is below water level - gave way, flooding 80% of downtown and forcing an evacuation of the Superdome, the stadium built to withstand a hurricane where thousands where being sheltered.
Conditions there worsened as the number of people seeking refuge increased while where the air conditioning ran out and the bathrooms became filthy. Two people died and one committed suicide by jumping to his death. In no time the stadium and city itself were scripted for a total evacuation.
In general federal officials warned that the public health consequences of Hurricane Katrina were likely to be enormous and long term, fearing outbreaks of disease spread through sewage contamination of drinking water, spoiled food, insects, and bites from snakes and other animals. Some readings put contamination levels thousands of times above danger level and found traces of e.coli.
Louisiana was promised rapid emergency federal aid and funding but its early concern was getting drinkable water and rescuing the stranded as hundreds were being airlifted from the roofs of their flooded homes. The situation was quickly deteriorating, forcing the state to consider a total evacuation of the city as looting and violence rose with the frustration.
One law-maker even gave up on New Orleans. House Speaker Dennis Hastert suggested that it isn't sensible to rebuild the city. "It doesn't make sense to me," Hastert told the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago. "And it's a question that certainly we should ask." His comments drew an immediate rebuke from Louisiana officials. "That's like saying we should shut down Los Angeles because it's built in an earthquake zone," former Sen. John Breaux said. But that suited some who fled just fine.
Dubbed America's tsunami by many, the disaster was compounded by the fact it hit a major city where time and effort would be necessary to drain the stagnant and increasingly contaminated water. The damage was no less deadly in nearby Mississippi where most of the over 200 people confirmed dead so far lived and authorities feared thousands of victims.
The first estimate is that Katrina may have caused tens of billions in damages, shutting power to millions, crippling the oil infrastructure and damaging the interstate roadway system. New Orleans Hospitals were running out of power, already lucky enough to run on generators in a darkened grid, and scrambled to find places to take their patients. "It's like being in a Third World country," said one registered nurse manager at Charity Hospital. In view of the disaster, which well after the hurricane, kept coming in waves, it was an accurate description of this humbled southern hub of the world's richest country.
While the historic French Quarter appeared to have been spared by nature, it was a target of looting and other poor manifestation of human nature which had been noticeably absent during the 2003 black-out of the Northeast or after the tsunami. Inmates of Orleans Parish prison took advantage of the chaos to riot and tried to escape holding a deputy, his wife and their four children hostage.
Authorities could not spare many policemen considering many had fled and the priority for search and rescue. With the need to get to survivors, there was little immediate concern about the dead. "We're not even dealing with dead bodies," one official said. "They're just pushing them on the side."
By the end of the week help was on the way as thousands of members of the National Guard arrived and tens of countries including Canada, sent aid, including planes and ships. In a strange reversal of circumstances even well-known enemies of the U.S. such as Cuba and North Korea offered both sympathy and help.
Survivors were being moved to other cities such as Houston, but sometimes this only moved problems to other areas where they were still wondering how to start picking up the pieces. In the disaster areas, teams finally turned to the gruesome task of picking up the bodies.
The Big Easy was now nothing more than a graveyard its deputy chief of police Warren Riley said. "There's absolutely nothing here. We advise people that this city has been destroyed, completely destroyed."

Black gold fury
After a miserable summer of rising oil prices and shock at the pump, consumers were looking with some optimism at figures saying the worst had passed, such as troubles preventing some refineries from operating at full capacity. Then Katrina hit and observers who were predicting the Apocalypse as prices neared $50 a barrel a year ago saw them rise above $70.
Whither the rise of the black gold? Even the most dedicated commodity watchers can't say except, up, likely. Canadians have been so swamped by bad news during the busy driving season that they hardly noticed when national gas prices reached over $1 nationally and sat there. In cities of the East such as Montreal that meant paying well over $1.30 a litre, and nobody cares that it still makes gas cheaper than ketchup.
Some consumers have cut their driving, not an option for the hundreds of thousands fleeing the fierce hurricanes in the Southern U.S., while others went as far as looking to sell their SUVs to replace them with more economical models, a shift that came only with the new mind-set of high gas prices here to stay.
In the U.S. the Bush administration announced proposals for changing the fuel-economy rules governing trucks and sport-utility vehicles, but still allowed these gas guzzlers to be less efficient than normal cars, a half-hearted measure, according to some who say regulators feared upsetting car-makers.
When the prices weren't hitting consumers directly at the pump they were seeping into every day expenses such as higher produce prices caused by higher transportation costs, rising restaurant bills in establishments where deliveries ask for gas surcharges, and soaring travel prices as airlines and other modes of transportation adjusted to the new over-60 reality.
Some didn't take to the news too well according to figures recording a growing number of incidents involving people stealing gas at the pump and even siphoning parked vehicles. In one extreme case in the U.S. a gas attendant was killed after he was hit by a man who drove off without paying for his gas.
The reasons for the price surge, as high as 80% this year alone, never seem to be lacking. They varied from concerns over the succession of the Saudi monarchy earlier this summer, after the passing of King Fahd, to strikes in Ecuador and stoppages in Venezuela as well as refinery and distribution problems.
Tensions in the Mideast and the insatiable appetite for crude of developing nations such as China and India made sure the floor of the black gold remained at an elevated level. Perhaps it was little surprising that a Chinese and Indian company battled for the takeover of Canada's PetroKazakhstan, China National Petroleum Corp. winning the honors for a princely $4.18 billion, China's largest foreign acquisition yet.
While observers assess the damages and impact of hurricane Katrina in the oil hub of the southern U.S., the Bush administration said it would tap into its strategic reserves, based in that part of the country. Katrina roared through America's major gas refineries and shut down production of scores of oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, damaging many.
Florida governor Jeb Bush feared shortages in his state as a result and in part blamed oil companies for keeping lower inventories than they have in the past and that makes shortages more likely.
Yet while oil prices were expected to keep climbing, current records are an illusion, writes The Economist, because of inflation. It would take a $90 barrel to come close to feeling the shock of the Iran hostage crisis, and OPEC doesn't have the lock on the market it used to, the magazine notes.
But if history is any guide, the rise is a bad omen. The past three global recessions were all triggered by a jump in oil prices, the magazine notes, sounding alarms as oil prices more than triple since late 2001 when they stood under $20 a barrel.
The price of a barrel can mean different prices the world over. European countries such as the Netherlands and gas-rich Norway suffer the most, paying over $6 a gallon at the pump versus over $3 in the most extreme U.S. examples. At least before Katrina. After the hurricane hit some Americans were dumbfounded to see Dutch numbers showing on their pumps.
Prices in oil-producing Venezuela seemed to come from another planet entirely at 12 cents a gallon. The country's President, Hugo Chavez, may not have appreciated being targeted for assassination by American televangelist Pat Robertson recently, but seemed to have tempered his rage during a visit by activist Rev. Jesse Jackson when he announced Venezuela planned to sell as much as 66,000 barrels per day of heating fuel from its U.S. Citgo refinery to poor communities in the United States.
In Canada, sensing the foul public mood, the CAA told consumers to be wary of price-gouging companies who, according to its figures, are charging over 10 cents a litre more than they should. But consumers were confused about how they could follow its advice to hold off on filling up regularly until prices stabilize. In a recent poll nearly half of Canadians said they would consider nationalizing the country's gas companies.
High oil prices were not bad for everyone judging by oil company profits and a surging surplus both in Ottawa and Canada's oil-rich province of Alberta. The rising price has not only provided billions in extra revenues, but promises more down the road by making the extraction of oil sands feasible.
According to some economic figures, slowing growth in Ontario may soon make Alberta the only "have" province in Canada, leading to a rise of anti-federal sentiment because of fears the fastest-growing province will soon have to dispense money to all provinces under equalization payments.
Some economists say concentrating such wealth in one area of the country alone is not healthy. The province is already debt-free and has the lowest income tax rates in the country. Its wealth leaves it with a series of enticing possibilities, including eliminating income tax, corporate tax, or even providing free post-secondary education.
In Ottawa meanwhile the government was resilient it would not cut taxes that represent a growing income when gas prices rise at the pump, despite a budget surplus which, from the $3 billion it was expected to reach this year, may end up closer to $10 billion according to some estimates.
That isn't surprising to some who note Ottawa is still charging a GST tax supposed to pay for a deficit which has long vanished, leaving consumers unsure whether to be more upset at oil companies or their own government.

After the withdrawal
While thousands of unwilling settlers were being uprooted by Israeli troops it wasn't always easy to see immediate changes to decades of violence over the settlements.
In Shiloh one settler grabbed a gun and killed four Palestinians, an act quickly condemned by Arab militant groups that immediately called for retaliation. But already Israeli Prime minister Ariel Sharon's great gamble is altering the face of politics in the region nearly as fast as it is tearing down the towers which watched over the settlements for decades.
In Gaza some former combatants started looking for job openings, while militant groups like Hamas promised to take part in January's Palestinian elections. But as the violent images kept coming, only changing actors, change was not that obvious to see.
Violence in Gaza led to the arrest and injuries of dozens of people who resisted eviction by pouring acid and oil on Israeli soldiers, but Israeli officials were generally satisfied of the speed of the evacuation and started tearing down abandoned homes early. In fact even in the feared West Bank things went much smoother than expected, nothing like the far-flung scenarios of blazing guns and bloodshed.
Could a six-day operation have been all that was needed to return land captured in the Six-Day war? Still violence marked the first day Israeli troops were ordered to forcibly remove Jewish settlers in Gaza, one man killing four Palestinians in the West Bank and a woman setting herself on fire on the border of one of the settlements. In the hardline outpost of Kerem Atzmona, irate settlers even employed Nazi-era imagery and called the soldiers "Nazi!", causing shock in Israel, home to tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors.
Thousands of Israeli security forces burst through makeshift blockades and poured into four Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip early Aug. 17, beginning the forcible removal of protesters who refused orders to leave the area ahead of a midnight deadline on the 15th. The troops dragged sobbing Jewish settlers out of homes, synagogues and even a nursery school. In Neve Dekalim, the center of resistance, hundreds of pullout opponents, many not even residents, were holed up at the local synagogue.
Settlers had set garbage cans on fire outside the place of worship in a futile attempt to block the troops. Even as they were physically being carried away by police, settlers pleaded to be left alone or prayed for a miracle, some lamenting that not so long ago the government now evicting them had encouraged them to move in the occupied territories. Some of the emotions at times spread to the men in uniform, one army officer called in to forcibly remove the settlers in Gaza's largest settlement breaking into tears and tightly embracing a settler, saying afterward, "It's not easy."
The evacuation was not always violent. Some soldiers convinced protesters to leave after embracing them and joining them in song and prayer. Sometimes the settlers struck deals with the army to stage symbolic gestures for the cameras, before letting themselves be carried away. In the distance Palestinians observed the evacuation with a mixture of joy and incredulity that the long-awaited eviction was finally taking place.
There were signs of Israeli defiance early on. Before the midnight deadline to remove settlers forcibly demonstrators, mostly young people, turned on three Israeli army Jeeps, some brandishing M-16 assault rifles, smashing windows and slashing tires, ripping parts of the vehicles before setting them on fire. At any time in the past you would have expected this to be the work of Palestinian protesters, so deep in the occupied territories, but in the morning of Aug. 15 these were Israeli protesters turning on their own army to prevent it from carrying out its evacuation mission in the settlement of Neve Dekalim.
Prime minister Ariel Sharon said in a televised address that the withdrawal from the settlements was a painful necessity. "This step is very difficult for me personally. It is not with a light heart that the government of Israel made this decision on disengagement and the parliament did not lightly approve it," he said. "The changing reality in the country, in the region, and the world, required of me a reassessment and change of positions. We cannot hold onto Gaza forever."
As midnight struck on the 15th, gates came down carrying the words "Stop. Entry into the Gaza Strip and presence there is forbidden by law!" on the Israel border with Gaza, opening a new chapter in regional politics marking the first turnover of biblical Israeli land to Palestinians. After months of arguing that Israel could no longer afford the costs of maintaining 21 heavily fortified Jewish settlements and that Israel's security will be strengthened by removing them, it was turning words to action, a gamble both for the prime minister and the peace process.
At the time the gate closure stopped traffic from coming into Gaza, only half of the 9,000 settlers, all of whom were supposed to have left before midnight, had gone, the others decided to stay until the last minute, joined by outside supporters, many from West Bank settlements, estimated to number a few thousand. While many were preparing to leave, sometimes only to other settlements in the West Bank, others dug in their position to resist the eviction. Sometimes departing settlers left a trail of smoke and the charred remains of their homes, cars and other belongings in their wake, refusing to leave anything to the Palestinians.
There was little chance of that since once all the settlers were evacuated the Israeli army started tearing down all the homes and buildings, leaving only some infrastructures such as roads, water and electric lines in place. As always in the Middle-East, even significant acts can fail to sway both sides of the violent conflict.
While some Palestinians were rejoicing at the idea of being handed over land taken over by Israel in 1967, others only saw a ploy to divert attention from Israel consolidating control of parts of the West Bank and symbolic East Jerusalem. Over 200,000 settlers will remain in the West Bank and as Gaza was being evacuated Sharon repeated his plans to expand other settlements.
With the right-wing in an uproar and even death threats flying, Sharon didn't need to be reminded of some of the consequences of leaving the settlements. The former soldier who once fought for the occupation of Palestinian lands sees just one: long-term peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
Even before the fateful Aug. 15 date protests and acts of violence reminded Sharon of the perils of moving out of Gaza. On Aug. 4 an Israeli soldier disgruntled by the withdrawal from the territories gunned down four Arabs on a bus in northern Israel before he was killed by an unforgiving mob. The shooting was one of the deadliest by a Jewish extremist in recent years and appeared to be an attempt to sabotage Israel's planned evacuation. Sharon, called the shooting "a reprehensible act by a bloodthirsty Jewish terrorist who sought to attack innocent Israeli citizens", terms similar to those he chose to describe the Shiloh killer and the more violent settlers.
The gunman was reportedly from Tapuach, one of the most radical Jewish settlements in the West Bank, a rare event since most settler attacks in the past were directed against Palestinians in the West Bank rather than Arabs who are citizens of Israel.
Amid widespread protest by right-wing Israelis, opposition to the Gaza disengagement plan was the stated reason for Binyamin Netanyahu's decision to resign from Sharon's cabinet. "I am not willing to be a party to a move that ignores reality and blindly advances toward the establishment of an Islamic terrorist base that threatens the state," he said one week before the pull-out, which most Israelis support.
The former prime minister is a popular figure who will seek to unseat Sharon and the move was seen as a political tactic, playing to Likud's right wing, which has backed settlers in trying to derail the Sharon pullout plan. While the move did not destabilize the country it does herald possible divisions within Israel's dominant political party ahead of November 2006 elections. "Israel's campaign against terrorism is being put back," said Netanyahu, fearing that the evacuated settlements would become a base for terrorists.
The resignation was announced in a cabinet session during which a vote was held to allow the Israeli army and police to begin evacuating settlements, one of Israel's largest military operations. Palestinians are expected to assume control of the settler areas some time in October in the midst of widespread celebration. In Gaza City some Palestinians paraded, getting an early start to celebrations.
Among them the Islamic militant group Hamas hung banners proclaiming the pullout is a result of attacks by militants on Israelis. "The blood of martyrs has led to liberation," one banner said. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas called on his people to refrain from violence but reiterated calls for an Israeli pull-back around Jerusalem. "The most important thing is how to build our country so that it will become a model of civilization for the world," he said.
Sharon, who may soon meet Abbas, said that Israel awaited concessions from Palestinians but warned about resorting to violence at any time. "The world is waiting for the Palestinian response -- a hand stretched out to peace or the fire of terror. To an outstretched hand we shall respond with an olive branch, but we shall fight fire with the harshest fire ever," he said.

A nuclear anniversary
If the world needed reminders of the ongoing threat of nuclear weapons it couldn't ask for more than it got on the week that marked the 60th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A dreadful coincidence wanted the memorials to the victims to be held as six-nation talks on North Korea were once again reaching the point of failure, as Pakistan carried out the unannounced test of a nuclear-capable cruise-missile and as Iran broke UN seals and restarted its controversial nuclear program despite international condem-nation.
Just short of referring the incident to the Security Council, the UN's nuclear agency expressed "serious concern" about Tehran's nuclear program. The International Atomic Energy Agency agreed on a resolution that "urges Iran to re-establish full suspension of all enrichment related activities", setting a Sept. 3 deadline for compliance, a move that Tehran described as "absurd".
Iran's representative at the talks, Cyrus Nasseri, was unflinching. "Iran will not bend," he said. "Iran will be a nuclear fuel producer and supplier within a decade." Nasseri's defiance stayed true to form after warning earlier that referring Iran to the UN Security council over its resumption of nuclear activities would be a step towards "the path of confrontation." "I think that would be a grave miscalculation by the US, and particularly Europe," Nasseri told the BBC.
Under the international rules that govern nuclear materials, Iran has the right to process uranium for peaceful purposes. But the leaders of Europe and the United States say they are particularly concerned about Iran because it hid its capabilities for years and has ties to terrorism.
Less surprising perhaps was the latest failure of talks aimed at curtailing North Korea's nuclear program. For the fourth time since 2003, negotiators from six countries have broken off nuclear talks with little to show in the way of results. The only consolation was that the parties - China, North Korea, South Korea, Russia, Japan and America - called a three-week 'recess' instead of an outright break in the talks, and agreed to resume talks during the week of August 29th.
The politeness of the exchanges marked a change of tone according to some observers who noted that the rhetoric between US and North Korean participants sometimes used to get carried away. In another sign of change South Korea seemed to move away from Washington's intransigence somewhat, saying the hermit kingdom should be allowed to keep nuclear capabilities for civilian use. "If the US really wants to make substantial progress in the Korean peninsula's nuclear issue, it had better make up its mind to change its policy," North Korea's chief negotiator, vice foreign minister Kim Kye Gwan, said after the talks broke off.
West of the peninsula two nuclear powers recently warming to themselves risked putting diplomatic relations in a cold spell when Pakistan tested a ground-launched cruise missile for the first time just days after it reached an agreement with India over missile tests. A statement from the Pakistani military said the nuclear-capable missile, Hatf VII, or Babur, the name of a 16th-century Muslim conqueror, had been built without outside help and has a range of 500 kilometers, or about 300 miles.
Pakistani officials said India was not informed before the test, because "the agreement on prenotification of ballistic missiles, which has been finalized but yet not signed in New Delhi, does not cover prenotification of cruise missile tests," said Mohammad Naeem Khan, a Foreign Ministry spokesman. In a move reminiscent of the period which followed the Cuban missile crisis both countries agreed to set up a telephone hot line to reduce the risk of a nuclear accident and to notify each other before testing missiles, but only within the framework of the agreements.
Pakistani officials sounded triumphant at the successful testing of the missile but tried to downplay fears that it would affect the peace process, both sides having used missile tests in the past as a form of military swaggering. "We are committed to the peace process but neither them nor us are oblivious to our defense needs," said Sheik Rashid Ahmed, the Pakistani information minister. "We are very sure that our defense capabilities will not become an impediment in the way towards peace."
But it is keeping both countries in an arms race which becomes more frightening as tensions remain in Kashmir, a major flash-point in a region shared by both countries. The three cases offer interesting examples of the nuclear challenges: at the level of early and later development (Iran and Korea), as well as full-blown deployment and testing, where the challenges of proliferation are no less daunting.

Shuttle touches down safely
The shuttle Discovery may have made it safely back to Earth but its on-again off-again mission emphasized the program's many problems, five years from phase-out. Any future missions will pose a number of questions, notably: is it worth the risk?
Five years after the demise of the Concorde, retired after a fatal accident near Paris, could another famous white bird of the 1970s be flying on its last wings? If so, it would mean the end of the legacy of a previous bird, one of prey and Canadian, of such rich legacy that many of its records were never properly jotted down.
In February of 1959 the Canadian government shut down the CF-105 Avro Arrow fighter project, one light-years ahead of the competition, cutting thousands of employees, among them the cream of the Commonwealth's crop of engineers.
Many having come to the Dominion from war-ravaged Britain, about 200 personnel became some of the more sought-after engineers of the time, many moving back to Britain to eventually work on the Concorde, others moving south where they became key players in the nascent NASA. Mercury, Apollo, Gemini, and the shuttle missions became feats that bore the Maple Leaf, one recognised in the 1994 book "Arrows to the moon" telling the previously untold story of the contribution of Avro engineers to NASA.
Within 10 weeks of the demise of the Arrow, 25 Avro engineers were working for NASA, and another six would join them later. Other Avro engineers found work with the aerospace contractors that worked with NASA, the book details. A little more than 10 years later, US astronauts would stand on the surface of the Moon in what became one of the greatest stories of technology and exploration in human history.
Now Canada's most visible contribution is its camera-equipped robotic arm, busy inspecting areas of the Discovery shuttle that may have been struck by or lost debris upon launch in Florida. The lift-off was followed by over 100 cameras from various angles. It didn't take engineers very long to see something suspicious and make a dramatic decision: suspending further flights of the space shuttle fleet after determining that a large piece of insulating foam had broken off the external fuel tank shortly after liftoff.
A similar incident had eventually doomed the Columbia and its seven astronauts in the last mission, two and a half years ago, a disaster that has forced NASA to err on the side of caution at every turn. But even that may have come short. "We decided it was safe to fly as is," William W. Parsons, the manager of the shuttle program, said of the decision to go forward with the launch. "Obviously, we were wrong." The foam does not appear to have struck the Discovery, but further flights, including a future launch date which was supposed to carry a Canadian astronaut, will be postponed indefinitely.
Ottawa-based Neptec played a major role in the shuttle surveying technology, which has in part made NASA's return to space possible. Canada's 50-foot robotic arm has been tipped with a boon and camera to survey the shuttle's wings and nose cap. The arm was also used to help astronauts on space walks get into position to survey and fix damage. "This mission could not have occurred without Canadian robotic technology," the head of Canada's space agency, former astronaut Marc Garneau said this weekend.
Both the technology to survey and fixing any potential damage in space are new. Ontario-based MDA developed the 15m rod called the Orbiter Boom Sensor System which connects the Canada arm to the camera, not unlike an inter-stellar dental mirror. The cavities it was looking for had life and death implications. Neptec's Laser Camera System functions as Discovery's eyes in space, relaying detailed three-dimensional images of the shuttle's hull and heat shields back to ground control.
The LCS uses a synchronized scanning technique, patented by the National Research Council of Canada, to generate three-dimensional data. It can create a model of any object that is accurate to a few millimeters at distances of up to 10 meters and is the first three dimensional laser scanner to be space qualified.
The detection of another large breakaway piece of insulating foam is a dispiriting setback for NASA, which was basking in its triumphant return to space after a seemingly perfect launch which was billed as an inspiring comeback for the American space program. For the last few years astronauts going to the International space station, the construction of which has been halted by the absence of shuttle missions, have had to rely on ageing but resilient Russian technology and rockets to ferry astronauts, food and equipment to man's foothold in space.
The effort to fix the foam problem had consumed more than two years and hundreds of millions of dollars. NASA extensively tested foam and the way it is applied, modified the tank so that it would be less likely to shed debris, and replaced the foam-covered ramps with a heater, but some engineers were critical, saying NASA didn't sufficiently test the foam's "breaking point".
Such repeat problems are giving credence to critics who said that the economic advantages of a recyclable orbiter are eroded by the cost of servicing the fleet of shuttles. NASA therefore is considering a possible return to the previous design of rockets, where the issue of shedding foam is settled not by making sure that it never happens, but by making sure that it happens away from the vehicle holding astronauts: the booster lying under, instead of besides it.
Another urgent matter involved possible damage to the shuttle's underbelly. The Canadarms played a crucial role as astronaut Stephen Robinson locked his feet into one of the devices which then moved him into position to pluck two loose strips of canvas from the underbelly of the shuttle, a rare and risky operation. Standing on the end of the international space station's robot arm, he tugged out the first piece as the two linked spacecraft passed over Eastern Quebec. By the time he had pulled out the next fabric strip 10 minutes later, he had crossed the Atlantic and was zooming over the French coast. "That was the ride of the century!'' Robinson exclaimed. It was also sadly significant that one of the highlights of the mission was to repair the orbiter instead of conducting experiments.
While the Canadian technology is playing a major role at this juncture, it may not be the case down the road as the shuttle program is phased out, sometime around 2010, and another program is developed by NASA. Canada has yet to decide on any partnership in the future program. At Canada's Space agency near Montreal, the current setbacks are therefore close to terminal.
But some observers are wondering whether the future of manned flight doesn't lie in private enterprise, such as that of mogul Richard Branson, who has recently announced the launch of The Spaceship Company, which under the name Virgin Galactic hopes to operate commercial space flights by the end of 2008. Fares will start at $200,000.
NASA still hopes to carry out future shuttle missions, only if it can make sure it never again has to say `we were wrong`.

LES MIRACULÉS DU VOL 358  
A l'atterrissage les Européens applaudissent, et les 297 passagers du vol AF358 étaient d'autant plus soulagés de sentir la terre ferme sous leurs pieds que les derniers instants d'un vol sinon sans incident avaient été turbulents.
Le vent, la pluie et les éclairs s'étaient sournoisement cachés sous le ciel sinon toujours immaculé à 4000 pieds, et pour une raison inconnue toutes les lumières à bord s'étaient éteintes quelques secondes avant le contact avec le tarmac de l'aéroport Pearson.
Il était grand temps d'en finir et de calmer les nerfs, mais les passagers du vol Paris-Toronto, en majorité des Canadiens et des Français, n'étaient pas au bout de leur peine. Après quelque instants au sol l'avion tardait à ralentir son rythme éffrené, puis on sentait que les choses allaient mal quand les rebonds sont devenus nettement plus abruptes et l'aéronef a pris des airs de montagne russe: l'A340 dérapait car il avait dépassé la piste et plongeait dans le décor.
Ils ont été nombreux à penser qu'il y laisseraient leur peau. "On avait très très peur, se remémorait Olivier Dubois plus tard dans la journée, on pensait qu'on allait tous mourir". Comme une auto qui avait perdu le contrôle, l'aéronef  a fini sa folle course abruptement dans un ravin.
A peine remis de leur émotion initiale, passagers et équipage savaient qu'il n'y avait pas une minute à perdre. La fumée envahissait l'habitacle et des flammes paraissaient derrière les hublots. A peine soulagés d'être sains et saufs, les rescapés craignaient l'explosion. "Il y a eu des cris et de la panique mais heureusement que tout s'est passé très vite, aussitôt l'avion arrêté ils nous ont dit de sauter", expliquait Dubois, une fois rassénéré.
En fait, l'équipage n'a pas eu besoin de dire grand chose tellement l'on craignait encore le pire une fois sur terre. "Les masques d'oxygène ne tombaient pas et l'avion se remplissait de fumée", racontait Gwen Dunlop, une fois saine et sauve à l'hôpital.
Pourtant une température peu clémente les attendait à l'extérieur, certains comme Roel Bramar, un passager placé tout à l'arrière qui a été parmi les premiers à sauter, n'ont pas cherché à savoir se qui pourrait se passer. "Quand vous êtes dans ce genre de situation vous n'attendez pas pour voir ce qui se passe dans l'avion," dit-il quelques heures plus tard, la coupe de champagne à la main célébrant la survie d'un événement hors du commun.
Certaines des glissades et sorties d'évacuation ayant mal fonctionné, des passagers ont dû sauter de quelques mètres dans les airs directement sur l'herbe et tenter de grimper en haut de la pente du ravin dans la boue et la pluie, y laissant parfois leurs souliers. "On a été balancé dans la tempête, raconta Dunlop, on essayait de grimper la colline, on se bousculait, certains avec des enfants".
Tous sales et mouillés, plusieurs étourdis et blessés, et certains même ensanglantés, ils savaient pourtant qu'ils avaient réussi l'improbable. Entre 90 secondes et deux minutes avaient suffi à vider l'aéronef, tout un exploit de l'équipage de bord en soi, et quelques unes de plus auraient préparé le pire.
Un des moteurs avait explosé alors que les derniers passager sortaient du fuselage, et moins d'une minute après l'évacuation de l'Airbus, alors qu'une colonne de camions pompiers prenait positon sur du lieu du sinistre, les flammes enveloppaient une partie de l'avion. Les 309 passagers et membres de bord du vol avaient survécu à un désastre d'une rare catégorie.
Tels des spectres ou des revenants, les miraculés du vol 358 firent leur apparition, certains tirant des bagages enduits de boue, devant des automobilistes incrédules et ébahis au bord de l'autoroute 401 qui longe la piste à Mississauga, plusieurs stationnés au long de l'artère la plus importante au pays pour leur venir en aide.
Guy Ledez, gérant au comptoir de location Budget de Pearson était de ceux qui aidaient à tirer les rescapés du ravin. "Je voyais un océan de gens essayant de monter, dit-il, on m'a fait passer deux bébés et il y avait des gens âgés qui ne pouvaient pas grimper alors nous sommes descendus les chercher."
Quelques instants plus tard il a grimpé dans l'avion en flammes avec un autre homme pour s'assurer que l'évacuation était complète. L'autre homme est ressorti au moment où une explosion s'est emparée de la queue tricolore. Ledez a sauté à son tour. "Cette explosion m'a vite ramené à la réalité", dit-il.
Quelques 43 passagers ont été transportés vers cinq hôpitaux de la région, la plupart pour quelques os cassés ou des égratignures, et alors qu'ils soignent leurs plaies les enquêteurs sont à l'oeuvre pour déterminer les causes exactes du pire incident à Toronto depuis des années. En 1978, un DC-9 d'Air Canada, parti de Montréal et en route vers Los Angeles, s'était écrasé en tuant deux passagers. Huit ans plus tôt au nord de la ville un autre écrasement avait fait plus de 100 victimes.
En Amérique du Nord, le dernier grand crash d'avion s'est produit le 12 novembre 2001 lorsque 265 personnes sont mortes dans l'écrasement du vol 587 d'American Airlines à New York, un accident survenant un mois après les attentats du 11 sept. Mais jamais une si folle histoire de survie.
Pearson était sur le pied d'alerte depuis les attentats de Londres, mais également sous l'alerte rouge depuis midi en raison des orages dans la région. La météo a enregistré de forts changements de vents au moment de l'accident, ceux-ci feront l'objet d'une enquête. Certains témoins prétendent même que l'avion aurait pu être touché par la foudre. La piste fait également l'objet d'une analyse, celle-ci terminant dans le ravin où avait également échoué le vol de 1978.
Les enquêteurs ont vite déterminé que l'avion semblait fonctionnel au moment de l'atterrissage mais qu'il avait touché la piste plus loin qu'à l'accoutumée, éprouvant par la suite des problèmes de freinage. Pour une fois les enquêteurs auront tous les éléments dont ils ont besoin car il n'y a que des survivants et deux boites noires qui sont sorties indemnes de l'accident.
Le jour du drame les autorités aéroportuaires refusaient encore de dire si le pilote, toujours blessé, leur avait signalé des difficultés à l'atterrissage. Les passagers quant à eux disaient ne pas avoir été avertis de quelque complication que ce soit. Un enregistrement des dernières communications avec la tour ne suggère rien d'anormal.
Il n'y avait qu'à voir les applaudissements nourris, qui se sont arrêtés au bout de la piste 24. "Je suis heureux, se résignait à dire Dominique Pajot, un survivant de 54 ans, je ne sais pas si c'est un jour chanceux ou malchanceux."

NIGER STRUGGLES WITH FAMINE
The sights and sounds were gripping. The skeletal body of an under-sized child, his tiny neck failing to support a head buzzing with flies, seems to be barely kept together by sunburnt skin broken by lesions that he doesn't have the strength to heal. The cry of a starving infant, and soon after, of a devastated mother mourning his passing.
In early July these images played on giant screens across the world between rock acts as musicians gathered to bring attention to the plight of the world's poorest in Africa, ahead of the meeting of the leaders of the world's richest nations. Weeks later similar images were being beamed from Niger on the BBC, where a famine which had been predicted last fall by the UN, was threatening tens of thousands.
Despite the bombs which struck Britain on the first day of the G8 summit, leaders including Tony Blair, George W. Bush and Paul Martin refused to let the bloodshed in London hijack the agenda, and promised billions to aid poor countries. At the Gleneagles summit, the Group of Eight rich nations pledged to double their overall aid to roughly $100 billion a year by 2010, with about half of that going to Africa.
Anti-poverty campaigners professed themselves pleased with this increase, though some claimed that any delay in new funding would cost millions of lives. Nowhere else is this more true. Now more than a million people in Niger and in neighboring countries including Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, are facing starvation and diseases which weakened bodies cannot prevent.
Unable to mount a true full-scale operation for months, the UN started to airlift 44 tons of emergency food rations to the region, a temporary bandage which will not prevent further death. According to the United Nations, Niger is suffering from a poor rainy season and devastation to its crops from the worst locust invasion in 15 years. World Food Program director for Niger, Giancarlo Cirri, called the situation "some of the worst hunger I have ever witnessed."
The UN body will deliver 23,000 tons of food to 19 famine-stricken districts in Niger over a five-week period but will need further help from International food aid, which has stated to trickle when images of the famine started flooding evening newscasts. Before the images, the world had remained deaf to UN warnings going back to last fall.
The UN said the famine could have been avoided if the world had heeded its warning eight months ago when aid agencies raised the red flag. The tremendous tsunami relief may only have diverted the attention from the suffering continent.
Now while hundreds of emaciated bodies are flooding the nutritional center in Maradi, hundreds of thousands of others in rural villages are too sick to walk or to seek help. The charity Oxfam said families were feeding their children grass and leaves from trees to keep them alive, competing with the surviving livestock for scraps.
"The figures, the number of children between January and June, we received 10,000 severely malnourished children," Benoit Leduc of Medecins Sans Frontieres told the BBC. "These figures are enormous even if you compare to Darfur and Angola - these are very high figures for an organisation like MSF."
The government of Niger has been defending its handling of the crisis, saying its appeals for international assistance in November went unanswered but critics accused the country of being slow to call for help compared to other countries in the region. Top UN aid official Jan Egeland soon accused the international community of reacting slowly to the crisis in Niger. "Niger is the example of a neglected emergency, where early warnings went unheeded," Mr Egeland said.
But in June the Niger government refused demands to distribute free food and was criticised for not doing more to prepare for the food shortages. John O'Shea, chief executive of the Irish aid agency Goal, says the international community too often sits back and expects the UN to act as its "fire brigade" - which "it isn't."
The UN first appealed for help for Niger in November and got almost no response. A March appeal for $16 million got about $1 million. A May 25 plea for $30.7 million has received $7.6 million - about 25% of the amount requested, U.N. officials say. "The world wakes up when we see images on the TV and when we see children dying," Mr Egeland told the BBC. "We have received more pledges in the past week than we have in six months. But it is too late for some of these children."
If natural disasters were not enough, several countries' own emergencies are being made worse by huge numbers of refugees flooding in from conflict-torn neighbours such as Sudan and Côte D'Ivoire. Mali's finance minister, Abou Bakar Traoré, can only shake his head sadly at his own country's state of affairs. Mali is the fourth-poorest state in the world, according to the UN, and getting poorer. It has yet to see a penny of the g8's money. "I haven't seen anything about debt relief," he says. "Not a single piece of paper."
Aid workers say any good preventative strategy they may have had they simply didn't have time to implement, but add the current needs are monetary. Egeland said that beyond immediate food aid, the world should help Niger improve its agricultural methods to avoid future food crises. Others see a need for change at the international response level.
Oxfam said the UN should have a $1 billion emergency fund to draw on when it sees situations like the one in Niger developing, a solution it suggests should be adopted at a UN summit on reform in September. "It's a real opportunity to change things around ... how the world responds to crises like Niger," said Clare Godfrey, Oxfam's head of humanitarian advocacy. "The Nigers of the world won't happen again if there's commitment behind the rhetoric," she said.

UN SOUDAN TOUJOURS DIVISÉ
Quelques semaines seulement après une journée historique qui a vu un ancien ennemi du pouvoir intronisé vice-président soudanais, respectant le calendrier de la paix de Nairobi dans le plus vaste pays d'Afrique, celui-ci a été tué lors de l'écrasement de son hélicoptère, mettant le processus de paix en doute. De meurtrières émeutes se sont vite succédées dans la capitale.
Plus tôt des menaces de sécession étaient venues rappeller l'étendue du pays, toujours aux prises avec deux guerres, un nouveau conflit ayant éclaté dans l'est du Soudan le mois dernier.
Alors que John Garang, le chef du Mouvement populaire de libération du Soudan, et ses associés armés entraient dans la capitale, sous les applaudissements de milliers de réfugiés du sud que la guerre a fait fuir à Karthoum, Kofi Annan, qui avait d'ailleurs assisté à son intronisation, livrait un portrait assez triste de la situation au pays.
Le niveau des violences au Darfour a sensiblement baissé au cours des douze derniers mois notamment parce que "le nombre de cibles y a diminué", estimait le Secrétaire-général de l'ONU dans un rapport au Conseil de sécurité. "Tant de villages ont été détruits depuis que la guerre a éclaté que les milices ont moins d'endroits à frapper," notait Annan.
Ses macabres observations correspondaient aux remarques d'Andrew Natsios, administrateur de l'agence fédérale américaine USAid, qui a lui aussi estimé que le recul du nombre des victimes s'expliquait largement parce que la plupart des villages ont désormais été rasés.
Celui-ci soupçonnait toujours le gouvernement soudanais de soutenir les milices arabes Djandjawids, une déclaration qu'il faisait en compagnie de la secrétaire d'Etat américaine Condoleezza Rice en visite au Darfour, où elle a réitéré que les Etats-Unis caractérisaient les exactions contre les populations noires de génocide, des propos qui n'ont pas entièrement été éclipsés par la bisbille sur le maltraitement de certains membres de l'entourage de Mme Rice lors de sa visite à Karthoum.
Les Etats-Unis estiment quant à eux que le gouvernement soutient toujours les Djandjawids, en payant le salaire de leurs dirigeants qui poursuivent les attaques contre les populations locales. On estime d'ailleurs que le recrutement et l'entrainement se poursuit alors même que l'on parle de paix.
On craint également qu'une telle importance ait été attachée à pacifier le conflit nord-sud que certains pays comme les Etats-Unis aient minimisé les critiques ouvertes envers Karthoum par rapport aux attaques dans l'ouest, de peur de gâter les efforts de réconciliation.
Pendant ce temps de nouveaux troubles semblent avoir fait surface dans l'est du pays depuis le mois dernier, le voisin érythréen étant accusé de soutenir les rebelles du Front de l'Est, auteurs des attaques dans le seul port du Soudan. Ce regroupement récent de factions rebelles reproche une mauvaise répartition des richesses, dans ce pays où coule l'or noir que se divisent désormais plus ou moins équitablement nordistes et sudistes.
"Notre région n'a pas d'hopitaux, d'écoles, d'eau, de transports, elle n'a rien, s'écriait le président du front Musa Mohamed Ahmed. Si le gouvernement est prêt à résoudre ces problèmes paisiblement, nous le sommes également. Sinon nous sommes également prêts (à poursuivre le combat)". Bien que ces affrontements n'aient pas entravé les négociations pour la paix au Darfour, ils augmentent les forces centrifuges qui déchirent le pays.
Celles-ci persistent d'ailleurs dans le sud malgré les efforts de former un gouvernement d'unité nationale dans la capitale, entre autre parce que le calendrier de la paix de Nairobi, mettant fin à 22 ans de guerre mais non aux déchirements régionaux, prévoit toujours un référendum sur la séparation dans six ans.
Des contestations se sont également élevées dans le nord où l'on reproche au pouvoir d'avoir trop cédé. El-Tayeb Moustafa, un cousin du président Al-Béchir, a claqué la porte du gouvernement pour fonder un parti "ultranordiste" militant pour une séparation immédiate avec le Sud plutôt qu'un partage du pouvoir.
Paix trouble, nouveaux conflits et différends avec les voisins, une recette qui promet encore des années de misère alors que la famine sevit à travers le pays, notamment dans le nord. Garang promettait de mettre fin à tous les conflits qui déchirent le pays, du Darfour à l'Est.
Mais certains observateurs doutaient déjà que la division des pouvoirs dure à long terme, voyant les difficultés de tels arrangements dans d'autres pays africains comme le Burundi et la Somalie.

BRITAIN BRACING FOR MORE TERROR
They feared it was a matter of when not if, they were right. They feared there was more to come, they were right again. But the powers of prevention of intelligence agencies was in doubt after a new series of attacks on London, all eerily similar to the July 7 bombings, rocked the British capital on the 21st, this time only injuring one, but leaving a climate of fear across Europe.
Three tube stations and a bus were targeted again, during lunch hour, and while they malfunctioned, the devices managed to scare Londoners enough to remind them the attacks were the beginning, not the end of a new period of terror. London's police commissioner Ian Blair said the bombs were "aimed to kill" and his forces arrested a number of suspects soon after the attacks, which occurred minutes apart.
The attempted coordination either suggested the work a new terror cell, the first having been killed in the July 7 blasts, or of a sophisticated copycat with poor bomb-making abilities. Authorities said it was too early to determine whether the attacks were carried out by the same organization as the July 7 blasts or whether they were linked to al-Qaida but according to some reports the backpacks and explosives used in both attacks were identical and the BBC reported "speculation" that the devices were so similar they may even have been part of the same batch.
Police said they hoped the unexploded material would help in the investigation of the July 21 blasts but observers cautioned that little effectively linked the two series of attacks and that the second may even have served to distract authorities, who have seen their work load double. In the mean time British police are once again in a race against time to prevent a future attack, more likely until the perpetrators of the latest blasts are caught.
The investigation on the July 7 attacks failed to uncover the bomb-maker after a man in Cairo was arrested and then released. While the trail there went cold there was a rapid reminder that Egypt was facing its own struggle against terrorism when car bombs claimed by Islamic militants killed 88 people in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheik, the second time in a year tourist areas had been targeted in the country.
The initial London investigation led to arrests in Pakistan as well. Britain and Pakistan engaged in a momentary war of words as the investigation led there, where president Pervez Musharraf said he had cracked down on extremists and madrassas, the religious schools sometimes preaching hatred that three of the 7/7 bombers had reportedly attended, but said Britain also had its work cut out and shouldn't put the blame on his country.
"There is a lot to be done by Pakistan internally. And may I suggest there is a lot to be done in England also," he said. "The current strategy to deal with this is to encourage and support each other rather than speaking against each other and blaming each other and weakening the overall cause. We are together in the fight against terrorism we need to remain together and fight it together." In a departure with Pakistan's earlier position of denying any ties to Islamist fundamentalism however, Musharraf admitted his country had trouble with Islamists. "No matter where something happens, we end up being directly or indirectly involved," he said.
He may not have expected this would ring true in Egypt where investigators were looking for men of Pakistani descent, increasing suspicion of Al-Qaida's involvement. British police were looking for suspects of the same description, fitting the profile of the July 7 attackers, leading to one tragic mistake.
On July 22 London police confirmed they killed an "Asian-looking" man they initially said was linked to the investigation, an extraordinary and public scene in the city better known for bobbies that don't carry guns, now increasingly part of the new violent reality. But police later admitted they had made a mistake, killing an innocent Brazilian, and released CCTV images of four suspects.
The incident was a blow both to the investigation and race relations, and outraged a nervous Muslim community that is already being targeted by vigilantes. While regretting the death commissioner Ian Blair made no apologies for London's new "shoot-to-kill" policy which he said was necessary to stop suicide-bombers.
An unexploded bomb found in a park days later suggested a fifth bomber may have been at work on July 21, and therefore may be at large as well, but the Pakistani trail may have been off the mark in both countries. London police later found out two of their top suspects were from East Africa, and Egypt apologized to its Pakistani ambassador after admitting that probably none of its suspects were from Pakistan.
British parliamentarians meanwhile were moving closer to introducing stricter antiterror laws to consider in the Fall session, Britons showing a greater acceptance of tighter security measures since the July 7 attack.
As with the first bombing other countries such as the U.S. and Canada increased security protocols. In New York police started doing spot checks on bags in the subway, while lawmakers in Washington voted to extend the USA Patriot Act, the nation's main anti-terrorism tool, just hours after televisions beamed images of the new attack.
"While the Patriot Act and other anti-terrorism initiatives have helped avert additional attacks on our soil, the threat has not receded," said James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. While Democrats echoed the necessity for the law, they also said they were concerned the law could allow citizens' civil liberties to be infringed.
As British prime minister Tony Blair urged calm, there was a sense the latest attack, although less deadly than the first, rattled Britons concerned they had entered a new period of regular bombings, a decade after having seen an end to IRA-related attacks. That certainly was the sentiment in Brussels where the European Union's administrative body said "this second attack unfortunately confirms that terrorism constitutes a permanent threat from which nobody is safe."
Leaders in other Western countries such as France, Spain and Canada all convened emergency meetings with security officials in the aftermath of the attack. "We can't minimize incidents such as this," Blair said. "They're done to scare people, to frighten them and make them worried."
Blair has been coming under criticism after a report by a British think-tank tied the July 7 attack to Britain's participation in the war in Iraq which was very unpopular in the UK. A web site linked to al-Qaida threatened more attacks in European countries unless they withdrew their troops from Iraq.
Iraqi authorities have said they would not be able to deal with the insurgency if left to their own devices as the number of suicide attacks in Iraq increased. A report last week said that only three of 100 battalions trained to bring security to Iraq could operate without US or coalition support and the US fears Iraq's police forces have been infiltrated by insurgents.
Over 200 people have been killed in a string of recent attacks in Iraq, one attack on July 16th alone blew up an oil tanker south of Baghdad, killing at least 90 civilians. According to some reports Britain and the US had been considering a partial withdrawal within the year.
Blair meanwhile has refused to link the London attacks to his Iraq policy. But Britons' ability to move forward and have a pint is being tested with every new attack.

LONDON UNDETERRED BY TERRORISM
In the age of terror, the enemies of democracy have struck again, but their target was a city with a history of carnage, from the great plague to the blitz, that refuses to bow to an unworthy opponent. Scenes of jubilation after London was selected to host the 2012 games turned to horror the next morning when coordinated terror attacks killed over 52 people and injured over 700 in the British capital.
On the day the g8 summit in Gleneagles was supposed to get under way the attacks brought the gathering of world leaders to an abrupt stop, and shut down London's subway system, which was struck three times in coordinated attacks less than a minute apart. A double-decker bus was also the subject of a bombing.
Police described the bombs as sophisticated and made of "high explosives" but miraculously the death toll was limited despite the hour of the attack, during rush-hour when Londoners were commuting to work in great numbers. Days later however, police were still unable to identify the bodies, so badly burnt were the victims.
On a day usually made of photo ops and hopeful policy wishes, grim-looking but determined world leaders gathered at the summit stood behind Blair as he vowed Britain's way of life would continue and the culprit would be brought to justice. "We shall prevail," he said.
The tone was sometimes Churchillian as Britain faced its latest threat. "When they try to intimidate us, we will not be intimidated. When they seek to change our country, our way of life by these methods, we will not be changed. When they try to divide our people or weaken our resolve, we will not be divided and our resolve will hold firm."
Blair was then helicoptered to London to see the damage first-hand. "Whatever they do, it is our determination that they will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear in this country and in other civilized nations throughout the world," the British prime minister said.
Visiting a hospital tending to the wounded, Queen Elizabeth II, the daughter of a monarch who had walked the broken streets of war-time Britain, echoed the same unflinching resolve. "Atrocities such as these simply reinforce our sense of community, our humanity, our trust in the rule of law. That is the clear message from us all," she said.
The attack brought unity to leaders sometimes divided by US policy and reinforced the ties between the host country and Washington. "We will not yield to terrorists," declared US president George W Bush stressing leaders would work to spread an "ideology of compassion that will overwhelm an ideology of hate". "I was most impressed by their resolve, it is as strong as my resolve," Bush said of Britons.
Despite the attacks, citizens of a city which suffered the blitz of Nazi Germany not to mention decades of IRA attacks, reacted with the calm of actors in a well-rehearsed scenario and carried on their daily business after the initial shock had settled in. Stock markets which had plummeted soon after the attacks had pulled even by the end of the day as traders rallied, inspired by the defiance of the City.
Leading the way was mayor Ken Livingstone, whose words stirred the city that some say tiring of is akin to losing one's taste for life. "I can tell you now that you will fail in your long-term objective to destroy our free society," he said. "In the days that follow, look at our airports and seaports, and even after your cowardly attacks, you will see people from all over the world coming here to achieve their dreams. Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail."
Observing all this in awe was a former mayor who knows a few things about living in the age of terrorism. "As we were walking through and driving through the streets of the city, it was remarkable how the people of London responded calmly and bravely," said Rudi Giuliani, who was widely praised for his calm and resolute leadership after the Sept. 11 attacks. "In a strange way a lot of our response to Sept. 11 was modeling ourselves as much as we could on the people of London during the Second World War and the incredible way they withstood the attacks during the Battle of Britain," he added.
Britons reacted with the same stoicism when police evacuated the center of Birmingham on Saturday night, acting on an intelligence tip. A reminder that other attacks could still follow. "To live under the threat of terrorist attacks is simply part of being a Londoner," wrote Andrew Roberts, author of "Hitler and Churchill".
A group calling itself "The Secret Organization of al-Qaida in Europe" posted a claim of responsibility for Thursday's blasts, saying they were in retaliation for Britain's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. The statement, which also threatened attacks in Italy and Denmark, was published on a Web site popular with Islamic militants.
Another year was marked by another bloody attack on civilians in the age of terror. But while the bombings in Madrid a year ago turned their people against the military presence in Iraq, Brits seemed intent on defying the terrorists by looking more favorably on a proposal to extend the stay of British troops in Iraq.
In the mean time authorities were racing against time to save any possible survivors trapped in the rubble of London's stricken subway system, which nevertheless started running routes the following day, and to prevent more attacks. As the Madrid experience had shown, surviving bombers were likely to plan more attacks instead of fleeing.
Scotland Yard called the bombings "a callous attack on purely innocent members of the public" and said it had received neither warning nor claim of responsibility on the terror attack, the largest to occur in Britain. The US meanwhile raised its terror level to orange and other western countries such as Canada and France modified their own security procedures, increasing patrols around transportation services such as subways and airports.
Over the years security officials believe terrorists may have been scouting locations across Canada for future attacks, citing cases of people videotaping areas in the Toronto subway, Union station and the GO transit system. The morning of the attack the TTC announced special measures were being put in place in the subway system.
Recently intelligence officials said at least 50 terror groups now have some presence in Canada, principally from Sri Lanka, Kurdistan and points between and include supporters of some of the best-known Mideast groups, including al-Qaida. Osama bin Laden once named Canada one of five so-called Christian nations that should be targeted for acts of terror. The others, reaffirmed last year by his al-Qaida network, were the United States, Britain, Spain and Australia.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service said terrorist representatives are actively raising money, procuring weapons, "manipulating immigrant communities" and facilitating travel to and from the United States and other countries. "There is a direct threat to Canada and Canadian interests from al-Qaida and related groups," CSIS said. "Converts are highly prized by terrorist groups for their familiarity with the West and relative ease at moving through Western society."
In fact Public Safety minister Anne McLelland said an attack in Canada was inevitable and that Canadians were not psychologically ready to deal with one. France, the target of a string of subway attacks ten years ago, also heightened its security awareness and police in Italy arrested 142 people in a two-day anti-terrorism security sweep around Milan after the London bombings.
But the attack, coming after police had had a number of successes squashing terror plans in the UK in recent years, showed only so much could be done to prevent attacks. Then again arrests leading to the seizure of dangerous materials that could have been used in a chemical attack, such as ricin, may have prevented a much more deadly outcome on July 7.
Britain has been known for being breeding ground for hate, fed by a militant version of Islam spread through some of its well-known incendiary mosques. In the days after the bombings a number of mosques were attacked across Britain, spreading fear among one of Europe's largest Muslim communities.
Despite its strengthened antiterror law and the arrest of more than 100 suspected terrorists over the years, upsetting the Muslim community, Britain has denied the extradition of militants wanted for crimes elsewhere, including members a Moroccan group who once claimed sleeper cells were prepared to mount synchronized bombing attacks in Canada as well as Britain, France, Italy and Belgium.
Counterterrorism officials estimate that 10,000 to 15,000 Muslims living in Britain are supporters of Al Qaida and that among them as many as 600 men were trained in training camps connected with Al Qaida in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The blasts in London cast a pall over the g8 summit in Scotland, but its leaders emerged with a deal calling for $25-billion (U.S.) in extra annual aid to Africa by 2010, a commitment to make low-cost AIDS treatments accessible to all, and a call for trade talks to eliminate agricultural subsidies. "We speak today in the shadow of terrorism," said Mr. Blair, "But it will not obscure what we came here to achieve."
Blair said the industrial nations had signed off on a plan to begin addressing global warming by opening talks this year with a group of developing countries, but acknowledged that deep differences between the United States and the other nations over the issue limited the scope of the agreement, saying it amounted to "the possibility of re-establishing a consensus."
On the need to carry on the fight against terror, there was no debate. Less than a week after the attack police made their first arrest during a series of raids and determined that at least one of the attackers had died in the blast - raising the possibility they had all been suicide bombers, a first in Britain - that three had come from the Yorkshire region, and that all had been caught on close-circuit camera. A fifth man also caught on tape was being tracked as the possible mastermind of the attack.
Nor was the idea of cowering from terror an option. On Sunday after church services commemorated the victims across the city, Londoners took to the streets by the thousands to waive their flags and mark the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII. Celebrating a defiance which has only been transferred to the current generation of Britons.

PÉNIBLE SOUVENIR D'IL Y A DIX ANS
Dix ans après un des pires massacres commis en Europe depuis la Seconde Guerre mondiale le travail entourant les atrocités de Srebrenica reste en partie inachevé. Alors que des rescapés revenaient cette semaine sur les lieux, certains pour la première fois depuis la tragédie, pour réinhumer une partie des 8 000 Musulmans tués par des soldats bosno-serbes puis jetés dans des fosses communes en juillet 1995, des milliers de sacs contenant des corps doivent encore être analysés et il reste à fouiller une vingtaine de fosses communes.
Par ailleurs, alors que selon la force de maintien de la paix de l'Union européenne en Bosnie "l'étau se resserre" autour des cerveaux présumés du massacre, Radovan Karadzic, ancien président des Serbes de Bosnie, et le chef militaire bosno-serbe Ratko Mladic, tous deux accusés de génocide par le Tribunal pénal international de La Haye, ceux-ci n'ont toujours pas été saisis. Pendant ce temps à la Haye, le procès de l'ancien homme fort de Serbie, Slobodan Milosevic, fait régulièrement l'objet de délais pour raison de santé.
Plus lourd de conséquences pour l'avenir cependant, on peine encore à apprendre et enseigner les leçons du massacre, rejetées par les nationalistes serbes. Alors que plusieurs milliers de personnes ont convergé vers cette ville de l'est de la Bosnie où avait lieu une cérémonie marquant le dixième anniversaire du massacre, non loin de là plusieurs milliers d'ultranationalistes serbes se sont réunis pour honorer la mémoire des victimes serbes des guerres en ex-Yougoslavie.
Trois chaînes de télévision serbes diffusaient, en prélude, un documentaire à saveur de propagande intitulé "La Vérité", portant sur les souffrances endurées dans les années 1990 par la communauté serbe. Ailleurs des panneaux commémorant le massacre étaient vandalisés tandis que le parlement serbe observait un moment de silence pour les victimes des guerres des Balkans et des bombes de Londres, mais rien sur Srebrenica.
Ce n'est que le mois dernier que des images televisées montrant des agents serbes exécutant de jeunes Musulmans ont ébranlé la conscience collective serbe. Les autorités de Republika Srpska, entité serbe de la Bosnie, n'ont que l'an dernier - sous la pression internationale - reconnu que le massacre avait eu lieu. Mais les ultras ne sont pas près de se rapprocher de cet exercice de conscience, étant soupçonnés de protéger les deux hommes les plus recherchés de l'ancien régime.
Un geste certainement pas apprécié dans leurs rangs, le président serbe, Boris Tadic, assistait pour la première fois aux commémorations. Celui-ci expliquait son geste "pour rendre hommage aux victimes innocentes et pour montrer ainsi, en tant que président de la Serbie, l'attitude de la Serbie par rapport aux crimes commis contre des musulmans". "Condamner un crime commis en notre nom contre une autre nation est un signe de courage et de force. C'est pourquoi je vais à Srebrenica", expliqua Tadic.
Symbole d'atrocités serbes et de génocide, Srebrenica est aussi devenu synonyme d'impuissance honteuse de la communauté internationale et des Nations-Unies de protéger les victimes de conflits, la ville, à présent à demi abandonnée, étant alors déclarée "zone de protection" alors que le conflit vieux de plus de trois ans tirait à sa fin.
Un an après le massacre au Rwanda, l'ONU vivait une période noire qui a à jamais entaché son image. "Srebrenica a été l'échec de l'Otan, de l'Occident, du maintien de la paix et des Nations Unies, déclara l'ancien émissaire des Etats-Unis Richard Holbrooke lors des cérémonies où d'immense files faisaient passer un par un 610 cercueils drapés de vert jusqu'aux nouvelles tombes, c'est la tragédie que l'on ne devrait jamais laisser se produire."
La ville a aussi une signification notoire aux Pays-bas, dont les soldats étaient chargés de protéger la zone de protection. Le scandale national faisait toujours des victimes il y a trois ans lorsqu'une enquête força le premier ministre de rendre sa démission.
Alors que les plaies aux sein des communautés musulmane et serbe prennent du temps à guérir, les rappels cauchemardesques sont fréquents. Quelques jours avant les commémorations une nouvelle fosse commune était déterrée, elle est soupçonnée de contenir des centaines de corps.

IRAN'S ELECTION
The lesser of two evils, that is what the U.S. once called Iraq, when it backed Saddam Hussein's regime against Tehran. The U.S. once hesitated to bring down the regime in Baghdad by fearing to upset the balance of power in the region. As Saddam Hussein awaits trial, that balance has tilted toward Tehran, making Iran's latest presidential election critical.
While the vote would not accomplish much to put Iran on the path to democracy, the wrong candidate could set back reforms undertaken by past presidents. While the presidency is not where the power lies in Iran, but rather in the hands of the all-powerful veto-holding religious Guardian Council, indifference or inaction risked making the regime - already reluctant to let go of its uranium enrichment program - even more isolated and defiant.
Now many Westerners and Iranians fear the worse. A first round marked by the protest of reformist voters, many of whom responded to calls of a boycott, produced a first scare as the first ever run-off in an Iranian presidential election pitted conservative against ultra-conservative.
Realizing the implication of leaving the clerics unopposed, reformists reluctantly backed Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was president from 1989 to 1997, to prevent a victory for the mayor of Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an "extremist" according to the former. The bitter third-placed finisher in the first round called on voters to flock to polling stations for the run-off to defeat a hard-line candidate he termed a "symbol of totalitarianism."
In the West, Rafsanjani was the lesser of two evils of the regime. While he is credited by some for helping bring and end to the Iran-Iraq war and gradually stirring the country away from a revolutionary path after the passing of spiritual leader Khomeini, and even talked about building bridges with the Great Satan, Rafsanjani was no angel.
A "pragmatic conservative" trying to pass as a cautious reformist, he was no less part of the religious establishment that has stifled dreams of democracy after each of the victories of outgoing reformist Mohammad Khatami, who cannot compete in a third straight election. For instance Khatami saw opportunities to reopen dialogue with the U.S. during the 1990s, his former vice-president claims in an interview, but was overruled by the powerful non-elected theocracy that has ruled Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Seeking his own form of rapprochement with the West, Rafsanjani said he was ready to negotiate about the country's nuclear program but wouldn't bow to pressure. Seeking to move the country away from a state-controlled economy, he nonetheless benefited from the system, which made him wealthy, and accused students protesting the slow pace of reforms of becoming "entrapped by the Americans' sinister networks". He admitted somewhat cryptically however that "relations between the government and people must be mended," but his record was tainted by a wave of killings of dissidents during and after his presidency in the 1990s.
Too lenient to conservatives, not open enough to reformists, some feared his erratic stance bordered on schizophrenia and would do little more than maintain the current balance between religious clerics determined to keep the revolution alive and a people open to change. In the end he convinced no one and lost the run-off to the popular mayor who became a champion of the poor promising higher wages, more development funds for rural areas, expanded health insurance and more social benefits for women. Just as reformists closed ranks behind Rafsanjani, Ahmadinejad's inner circle suggested Iran's most radical and anti-Western factions had concentrated their influence against the former president.
News of the mayor's win was met with cynicism in the West where protests about the vote had been heard before the first round as just eight presidential candidates from more than 1,000 hopefuls were allowed to run, and countries such as the U.S. and Canada dismissed the election as "highly unrepresentative" and an exercise in futility. Ahmadinejad's victory, with 61% of the votes, nearly two times more than his opponent, was met with sound criticism. "For the Iranian people to have a fully free choice about their country's future, they should be able to vote for candidates who hold the full range of political views, not just candidates selected for them," British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said.
Ahmadinejad says he considered his victory to be a blow to Iran's enemies, namely the U.S., with whom he says Iran needs no special relationship, and vowed to "build up an exemplary, developed and powerful Islamic society". While he said he was willing to continue talks with Europe on Iran's nuclear program, he insisted "we need it for the development of our country and we shall carry on with it."
Opponents, led by a furious Rafsanjani, said the vote had seen "massive irregularities". Street protests calling the vote a sham during the campaign were, as usual, firmly dealt with, and three newspapers that published a candidate's letter critical of the election were shut down.
Accusations of vote-rigging during the first-round of the election had arisen against some of Ahmadinejad's allies, particularly the elite Revolutionary Guards and hard-line civilian vigilantes. An Interior Ministry observers' group reported 300 complaints of violations in Tehran alone, said group leader Ibrahim Razini. But for the victor, the vote marks "the beginning of a new political era for the Iranian nation," a notion which has given leaders chills in the West.

SORTIR D'IRAK
Réunie à Bruxelles, la communauté internationale a tenté de rassurer Bagdad de son soutien continu dans ses efforts de stabilisation et de reconstruction, mais le pays le plus engagé en Irak, qui compte de plus en plus péniblement ses morts, se penche sur l'éventualité de son retrait. Et pour cause, le jour-même l'explosion de non moins de quatre autos piégées dans la capitale a fait 18 victimes, elles qui se chiffrent par centaines depuis l'investiture du gouvernement d'Ibrahim Jaafari il y a deux mois: soit plus de 1200 personnes dont environ 120 GIs et deux membres du parlement.
Sujet tabou il n'y a pas si longtemps, des membres du Congrès américain, surtout démocrates mais aussi républicains, parlent de stratégie de sortie, notamment un certain Walter B. Jones, jadis si outré par la résistance française à la guerre en Irak qu'il a fait rebaptiser les ''French'' fries ''freedom'' fries. Depuis les pauvres frites ont repris ce qualificatif hexagonal qu'elles n'ont pourtant pas dans la langue de Molière, et M. Jones, un conservateur, a exigé un calendrier clair de retrait à l'administration Bush.
Bien qu'une résolution déposée au Congrès faisant appel au retrait des troupes à partir d'octobre 2006 n'ait aucune chance de passer, le fait qu'elle ait été mise sur pied par des congressistes comme Jones montre bien l'épuisement américain et bipartisan face à cette guerre d'usure sans fin. L'administration, qui soutient que l'arrestation de Saddam Hussein et les élections ont fait tomber le premier domino de la démocratie dans la région, a de plus en plus de comptes à rendre, en commençant par le président Bush, qui devient aussi impopulaire que la guerre.
Selon un sondage récent, 56% des américains estiment que la guerre n'en valait pas la chandelle. ''Après 1700 morts, plus de 12000 blessés et 200 milliards dépensés, nous croyons qu'il est temps de se pencher sur ce débat'' prétend Jones. Quelques jours plus tard dans son adresse hebdomadaire à la radio, Bush réaffirmait qu'il n'était pas question de quitter l'Irak avant "la victoire", chose qui avait pourtant été déclarée acquise un certain mai 2003 sur un certain porte-avion. Il rejette également toute notion de calendrier de la sortie, dont sauraient profiter les insurgés selon lui, et comptait s'adresser à la nation pour expliquer sa position.
Pourtant Jones et les siens ont l'appui du public américain dont près de 60% réclament le début du retrait des soldats américains d'Irak. Car on semble de plus en plus dissocier le discours de la maison blanche, selon laquelle la guérilla est "à bout de souffle", pour reprendre les dires récents du vice-président Dick Cheney, avec les difficultés sur le terrain.
Vient se joindre aux voix discordantes celle de la CIA, selon laquelle l'Irak est tellement hors de contrôle qu'elle sert de terrain d'entrainement aux terrorisme, sans parler de cible de choix, et offre une riche expérience aux combattants. "La guerre en Irak forme un nouvel ensemble d'extrémistes" prétend de son côté le SCRS canadien.
Pour une fois, même le secrétaire à la défense Donald Rumsfeld devait se rendre à l'évidence que la sécurité au pays ne connait pas d'amélioration ''statistique'' depuis la chute de Saddam Hussein. Ce dimanche il estimait que le combat contre la guérilla pourrait se prolonger pendant une décennie, et se gâter à court terme. Il ne niait pas que les Etats-Unis facilitaient les échanges entre diplomates et insurgés Irakiens pour arriver à une solution, la reconnaissance d'un échec militaire. Selon le premier ministre Jaafari deux ans suffiraient pour rétablir l'ordre.
Tandis qu'elle forme des militants, passibles d'organiser des attaques ailleurs dans le monde par la suite, l'insurrection vise l'élite irakienne. Alors que des délégués d'environ 80 pays et organisations se rencontraient à Bruxelles pour montrer aux Irakiens que le monde "ne les laisse pas tomber", un ancien juge qui avait offert de travailler sur la constitution irakienne a été tué lors d'un attentat, un avertissement à l'élite politique selon des observateurs.
Etrangement, le nouveau débat à Washington connait des échos à Bagdad où l'on souhaite que la présence des troupes étrangères, 176 000 hommes dont 130 000 Américains, soit "provisoire". La déclaration finale de Bruxelles voyait d'ailleurs au-delà de la guerre et appelait tous les pays du monde à renouer des liens diplomatiques avec Bagdad. Certains pays, dont le Canada, ainsi que l'Egypte et la Jordanie, premiers pays arabes à le faire, ont aussitôt annoncé la nomination d'un ambassadeur en Irak.
Les participants ont aussi invité les créanciers de l'Irak à alléger sa dette, chiffrée à plus de 120 milliards de dollars, avant une conférence des donateurs prévue en juillet. Car la guerre qui devait être financée par le pétrole irakien prend régulièrement pour cible une industrie qui produit encore moins que les 2.5 millions de barils par jour d'avant guerre.
Un rapport récent de l'ONU a fait état de la chute de la qualité de la vie en Irak, notant qu'à peine la moitié de la population a accès à de l'eau potable tandis que les pannes d'électricité sont courantes. Un rapport séparé fait état d'une corruption endémique au gouvernement .

LATIN AMERICA, U.S., DON'T SEE EYE TO EYE
It used to be that the U.S. had free reign in its back yard, Latin America, but if anything the recent gathering of the Organization of American States in Florida captured the mood of the continent, one that is notably sceptic of pro-U.S. and pro-trade policies and where Left-leaning candidates have been swept into power in two-thirds of South America's countries in recent years, with another possibly waiting in the wings.
First the 34-state summit rejected a U.S. plan to create a committee to monitor the exercise of democracy in the hemisphere by fear it was aimed against Venezuela, a country increasingly hostile to Washington. Instead countries agreed on a declaration that attaches equal or greater emphasis to attacking poverty because of what it calls "the interdependent relationship of democracy and social and economic development."
At a time many countries have veered to the Left in the region after a period of disenchantment with pro-market economic reforms, that is capturing the mood of the continent. Last week Bolivia saw left-wing and right wing elements face-off in street battles which outgoing President Carlos Mesa feared would bring on a civil war.
The crisis was notably triggered by peasants pressing for the expropriation of private, Western oil companies, who occupied installations belonging to Repsol YPF of Spain and British Gas, forcing the companies to shut down production. The country is in a midst of a five-year crisis which has already led to the ouster of two presidents. "If we do not recover the natural resources for the Bolivian state we will never resolve the social, political and economic problems," said Evo Morales, a congressman and indigenous leader who is head of the Movement Toward Socialism and is considered among the top candidates for president in the country of nine million. "The oil fields should pass over to the Bolivian state." Morales, is an Aymara Indian who gained prominence leading coca farmers protesting American-backed eradication efforts.
The recent protests erupted last month after a law was passed imposing taxes on foreign companies that have invested in Bolivia's gas reserves, prompting opponents to say it wasn't enough. In the Western Andes Indians marched by the thousands and blocked key roads, keeping La Paz short of fuel and food. "Let us avoid lost lives, let us avoid a violence that devours us all," Mr. Mesa, who has been in office less than 20 months, said in a televised address. "This is an exhortation for a country that is on the verge of civil war."
Dividing the country was in part the issue of who should follow in his footsteps, then Hormando Vaca Díez, a wealthy land owner and long-time politician who has the support of the influential business elites and is despised by the Indians. "The country can not continue playing with the possibility of splitting into a thousand pieces. The only solution for Bolivia is an immediate electoral process," Mr Mesa said.
For the last five years, after a popular uprising forced an American water utility out of Cochabamba, the restive Indian majority has flexed its political muscle, protesting against foreign multinationals and market reforms prescribed by the United States and the International Monetary Fund.
Reminiscent of the Chiapas protest against Nafta in the 1990s, the protest comes at a time the Bush administration has been trying to broaden the trade agreement in Central America, known as Cafta, a plan it is having a hard time selling even at home however, where trade deals are increasingly synonymous with lost jobs. Last week the Bush administration took a beating from farm-state senators angry about the pending trade agreement.
A Republican who supports the deal said the administration hadn't done enough to show farmers how they would benefit. "They're going to have to put on a full-court press, or CAFTA may not pass," said Sen. Pat Roberts. "They're going to have to sell it a lot better and prove to a farmer or rancher how he or she really is benefiting from this."
That seemed to be the sentiment of New York governor George Pataki in a recent speech before the Economic Forum of the Americas in Montreal, where he warned anti-globalization efforts were gaining ground. "I'm not sure he'll get it through Congress," Pataki said of President Bush's push on Cafta, "because there are those who are saying we have to protect the industries that are here as opposed to opening up markets both ways. I think that is completely wrong."
In the U.S. many Democrats complain the agreement lacks labor and environmental protections to stop abuses of workers in poor, low-wage Central America while Republican opponents mainly come from textile areas hit hard by foreign competition or areas connected to the sugar industry, which considers CAFTA a threat to its future. "I think we cannot reverse the tide of globalization," insisted Pataki. "I think we have to make sure it is done in an intelligent and balanced way, but we cannot build barriers to free-trade."
While free-trade is increasingly a dirty word in Latin America, it is also sparking concern in the U.S., forcing Bush, in a speech to a General Assembly session of the OAS, to urge the US Congress to pass Cafta, noting it could open up a market of millions of consumers for the U.S. "I urge the Congress to pass it," Bush said, complaining that U.S. products are facing "hefty tariffs" when they enter other countries' markets in the hemisphere. In his previous weekly radio address Bush said that Cafta would lower barriers in sectors such as textile, which he said would make US manufacturers more competitive in the global market.
But one term is creeping into the vocabulary, that of "trade fatigue". Ironically, further south, it has everything to do with American policies. "The bottom line is that Latin America is in open rebellion of the economic policies of the Washington consensus," Jim Shultz, executive director of Democracy Center, told the New York Times. "Sometimes it happens in the ballot box. Sometimes it happens on the street, like in Bolivia. It is, in essence, the same rebellion."
That rebellion however threatened to create a backlash from the right. Vaca Díez also signaled to reporters that the military could be used to restore order, a warning that should always be heeded in Latin America. In the end, sensing the inevitability of violence, Diez declined the top post, opening the way to elections. A noble gesture which no doubt averted possible bloodshed, and a small victory for freedom in Latin America, in a way the U.S. could not always understand.

DES DIVISIONS ENCORE ÉVIDENTES AU LIBAN
Libéré en grande partie du joug syrien, le Liban doit faire face à ses démons, qui minent une unité nationale encore incomplète. C'est l'évidence même alors que sont enregistrés les résultats d'un autre weekend d'une élection répartie sur plusieurs semaines.
Au début du mois c'était au tour de la coalition des mouvements chiites Hezbollah et Amal, des loyalistes alliés de Damas, de remporter une victoire écrasante, après une première phase des législatives grandement balayée par les factions anti-syriennes dans Beyrouth. Le vote du 29 mai, un mois après le retrait des dernières troupes syriennes, a été remporté par les listes de Saad Hariri, fils de l'ex-Premier ministre assassiné Rafic Hariri, lors de la première des quatre phases des élections, les premières sans l'ombre de Damas et sous l'oeil des observateurs étrangers.
C'est la survie du clivage Est-Ouest des vieux jours craint-on. Avec ce scrutin du Liban sud, les vainqueurs estimaient qu'on avait exprimé un refus de désarmer la "résistance" anti-israélienne, tel qu'exigé par l'Onu. "Le sud a dit, clairement et devant les observateurs internationaux, son appui à la résistance (...)", a déclaré Nabih Berri, chef du mouvement Amal et du Parlement sortant.
Le Hezbollah, qui fut fer de lance de la lutte contre l'occupation israélienne du sud, a annoncé maintes fois son refus de déposer les armes tant qu'Israël occupe le secteur controversé des fermes de Chebaa, et continue de violer la souveraineté libanaise. La victoire est considérée comme un soufflet aux Etats-Unis pour qui le Hezbollah est une organisation terroriste, fait qu'ils ont rappelé en faisant allusion à la résolution 1559 de l'Onu, prévoyant en plus du retrait des troupes syriennes le désarmement des milices au Liban.
C'est une question que devra travailler la nouvelle équipe dirigeante libanaise à sa sortie des urnes. Depuis plusieurs jours, le cheikh Hassan Nasrallah, charismatique leader du parti de Dieu, crie haut et fort son refus de désarmer: «La main, quelle qu'elle soit, qui voudrait se saisir de nos armes est une main israélienne qui devra être coupée. Si quelqu'un, n'importe qui, pense désarmer la Résistance islamique, nous le combattrons jusqu'à la mort», a-t-il affirmé, à la veille des élections.
Selon des observateurs, la question du désarmement dépasse les frontières libanaises. «C'est une affaire régionale par excellence, liée au dossier nucléaire iranien, à la situation en Syrie, en Irak et en Palestine. Ces armes font partie d'un front qui commence en Iran, passe par la Syrie et l'Irak et se termine en Palestine, où on ne peut exclure une reprise de l'Intifada, explique Joseph Smaha, un analyste du quotidien libanais As-Safir. Je ne vois donc pas le Hezbollah céder, d'autant que l'armée libanaise n'a pas la capacité à l'obliger.»
D'autant plus que selon un autre observateur, les déclarations du cheikh Nasrallah sont un message adressé aux autres factions du Liban, dont celle d'Hariri «pour leur dire : votre victoire électorale ne vous donne pas des points pour nous désarmer». Devant cette résistance au désarmement et ce mépris d'Israel, on retrouve un peu de ce qui a précipité 30 ans de guerre civile, la prise de position par rapport au pays hébreu qui s'en prenait aux guérillas palestiniennes retranchées au Liban.
Pourtant bien des choses ont changé, même si le sud est encore la scène d'affrontements sporadiques entre combattants du Hezbollah et Israël. Pendant ce temps, lors du congrès annuel du parti Baasiste en Syrie, le vice-président Abdoul Halim Khaddam,architecte de l'influence syrienne au Liban, a remis sa démission. Mais l'influence syrienne à Beyrouth se fait parfois encore sentir, notamment lors de la mort d'un journaliste anti-syrien au Liban, victime d'une voiture piégée.
L'attaque a provoqué les appels à la démission du président pro-syrien Emile Lahoud et a lancé de nouveaux appels de l'ONU et des Etats-Unis à la non-ingérence syrienne au Liban. Selon les renseignements américains, des agents de sécurité syriens y seraient encore très actifs.
Des éclats sont aussi survenus dans le nord, à Sofar, où des disputes entre partisans du druze Walid Joumblatt et leurs rivaux menés par Talal Arslan, allié depuis peu au général Michel Aoun, ont dégénéré en clash armé. Signe d'éclatement de cette région toujours dominée et difficilement unie, ces incidents ont donné lieu à un terme qui prendrait le sens de balkanisation: celui de la libanisation, la fragmentation à la libanaise.
Lors du troisième weekend du vote, dans la région du Mont-Liban et la plaine de la Békaa, d'anciens rivaux formaient de drôles de coalitions, notamment le général Aoun, remportant une vitoire pour la liste pro-syrienne et réduisant les espoirs d'une opposition jadis si optimiste.

DUTCH AND FRENCH REJECT EU CHARTER
Even stubborn old Jacques Chirac could see the writing on the wall. In May he marked his 10th anniversary as president of France but declined to celebrate, knowing fully well his best years are behind him. That's how much he had riding on France's referendum on the EU constitution, which was met with a resounding Non (55%).
Chirac had made a number of personal appeals on national television, as if his life depended on it; politically at least, it appeared that it did. For French voters were more moved by national issues, especially economic ones, than anything that had to do with Europe and a document hundreds of pages long.
Within hours of the first exit polls it appeared a government shake-up would be under way, but while the vote would spell the end of the road for the traditional culprit of national government failures, in this case prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, it was a personal blow to Chirac who gambled on putting the constitution to a binding vote instead of letting parliament ratify it, as had been done so far in other countries. Within days Raffarin had stepped down in favor of personal favorite Dominique de Villepin.
 Europe often failed to move the French despite the spearheading of continental unity by their politicians. Participation in EU elections has been low and thirteen years ago the French barely voted yes (51%) to the Maastricht treaty. Now the weaving of one of the first pillars of the building of the European community threatened to carry a domino effect as the Netherlands followed suit and rejected the charter by over 61%.
While either country can rest assured it did not single-handedly down the document, two rejections within days signalled an undeniable problem with the text. Still France's rejection alone was enough to make the EU shudder, its officials having made repeated appeals to French voters as polls showed the numbers pointed to rejection. The vote effectively blocks a treaty that aimed to streamline decision-making in a growing union and give it a president and foreign minister. The blow spread across party lines, also dividing the leftist camp despite the appeals of socialist leaders.
Sluggish growth and economic outlook, high unemployment and fears of further job losses to Eastern members of the Union as well as the prospect of Turkish membership, not to mention Chirac's slipping popularity and the little appeal of EU institutions expected to wrest powers away from national governments, all played a part in feeding support for the No side.
Many were concerned the treaty could lead to the type of unrestrained capitalism that could threaten a generous welfare system that gives plenty of vacations, includes stringent worker protection rules and child birth support policies that have recently been credited for a mini-baby boom of sorts in France.
Chirac entered the Elysée Palace ten years ago against a backdrop of 11.4 percent unemployment and had pledged to reduce it and heal social divisions, failing on both counts. Across the continent, it was also another sign the leaders of the last decade were losing favor in their own countries, after votes in Britain and Germany had shown fatigue with Blair and Schroeder.
If there is any consolation for supporters of the EU in France it is that a high participation rate, over 70 percent, and passionate public debate, 80 percent of people polled saying they had either read or discussed the text made of 448 articles, had finally generated some interest about the Union and its institutions, but where this has led is at the very least to a crisis at the heart of the European project, one the builders had staked their future on.
Chirac addressed the nation 30 minutes after the result was announced. "My dear compatriots," he said, "France has spoken democratically. A majority of you have rejected the constitution. This is your sovereign decision." But he added, "France's decision inevitably creates a difficult context for defending our interests in Europe."
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso described the French rejection as "a very serious problem," but insisted: "We cannot say that the treaty is dead." But with no plan B and all countries needing to ratify the charter, serious doubts are being cast about the future of European integration, which has had more success extending itself than reaching deeper levels of integration.
There was a sense that the shudder in what has been a cradle of continental unity for more than half a century and the country where much of the constitution was painstakingly written, threatened to set back plans for broader European integration by years.
Former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, said countries that reject the treaty will be asked to vote again, but so soon after this stunning blow, it was hard to see where the much-needed votes would be coming from.

THE UZBEKS RISE, AND PAY THE PRICE
The heartland of the latest shaky domino in the post-Soviet republics, or the site of earlier and persistent tensions, the Ferghana valley flared up anew in May when the troops of the hardline Uzbek government turned their guns on protesters, reportedly killing hundreds in what some are calling a modern-day Tian An Men.
The Uzbek government, a relic of Cold-war communism that is rejecting repeated calls for an international inquiry, later admitted that far more people were killed than originally thought during the clash, putting the figure at 173, which remains well below many other accounts of the onslaught.
One opposition party said that it had compiled a list of 745 dead. Uzbekistan's government, which has been widely criticized for years for the persecution of political opponents, the suppression of freedom of expression and the use of torture, maintained all along that it had acted with minimal use of force in putting down a prison break and demonstration on Friday May 13, but came under fire from foreign powers including Europe and the U.S., for which it has become an important regional ally in the war against terror. China and Russia however were more supportive.
The crackdown began after armed Uzbeks and demonstrators protesting what they said was the unfair prosecution of 23 Uzbek businessmen stormed a local prison, releasing the businessmen and about 2,000 other prisoners. As crowds gathered, some protesting dire economic conditions, so did troops, who went on to fire indiscriminately at unarmed civilians, young and old, women and children, in the public square in Andijon, a regional capital in the Ferghana Valley, according to witnesses.
Troubles soon spread to other towns of the valley, which borders a section of Kyrgyzstan that mounted a successful uprising in March against former Kyrgryz president Askar Akayev. The Uzbek government claimed it was putting down Islamist rebels, in this densely populated region of the continent with a history of ethnic tensions, an argument used to placade the U.S. in the past that also serves as pretext for maintaining a repressive state, critics say.
"The government can't use the war on terrorism to justify shooting demonstrators," said Holly Cartner, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "This isn't about terrorism. It's about people speaking out against poverty and repression." The organization says the 23 businessmen were charged with "religious extremism" but are really members of a nonviolent minority religious group.
The presence of U.S. bases in the country to lead its war against terror in neighboring Afghanistan delayed Washington's reaction somewhat, only condemning the bloodshed the following week. "I'm very disappointed that it took the United States three days to condemn the massacre," Balbak Tulobayev, an official in the administration of the interim Kyrgyz president told the New York Times. "Only the Americans can help the Uzbek people against this tyrant."
Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice urged Uzbek president Islam Karimov, who has been in power since the collapse of the Soviet Union, to relax his grip on power. "We have been encouraging the Karimov government to make political reforms," she said. "This is a country that needs... pressure valves that come from a more open political system."
But Bush, just previously in Georgia praising the country's peaceful revolution and warmly welcomed by crowds, has yet to call for free elections in Uzbekistan. Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Tashkent who was sacked for criticizing coalition support for Uzbekistan, deplored , "There is not a single word recorded by any (member of the U.S. administration) calling for free elections in Uzbekistan."
Days after the incident the country was more calm, but that's because people are terrified by the outcome of the bloodshed some say. "The situation is very bad here, nothing will change after this riot" one Uzbek scholar told Liberation. Referring to recent upheavals in neighboring Kyrghistan, he said there was little hope of the same happening in a country where protests are often crushed. "The Kyrghiz weren't scared but our people are terrified and oppressed, nobody here will tell you what they think."
HRW says the country has no independent media, the government has refused to register opposition political parties and there are tight restrictions on civil society groups and non-governmental organizations. Meanwhile hundreds of Uzbeks fleeing the violence have sought shelter in Kyrgyzstan but have received a cold welcome there. UN officials said some 500 refugees had registered for asylum. Many are sought for prosecution in a new round of post-riot crackdown seeking regime opponents.

LES GARDIENS DE LA PAIX: 50 ANS PLUS TARD
En cette cinquantième année d'existence des bérets bleus, le pays qui a inventé ce concept - pour lequel on désigna un prix Nobel de la paix - semble l'avoir simplement abandonné avec le temps. Moins de 150 soldats canadiens portent actuellement les couleurs de l'ONU, dont un peu moins d'une trentaine toujours au Sinai, là-même où la vision de Lester B. Pearson s'est concrétisée. La plus importante mission demeure au Moyen-orient, dans le Golan, alors que d'autres officiers ont été saupoudrés finement à travers le globe, comme à Haiti (2) au Congo (8) et en Afghanistan (1).
Les contingents canadiens à l'étranger servent plutôt sous la bannière de l'Otan, notamment dans les Balkans et, surtout, en Afghanistan. Même dans ces deux cas, les effectifs ne sont plus ce qu'ils étaient, les 1000 soldats en Bosnie n'étant plus qu'une quarantaine et ceux d'Afghanistan, envoyés principalement pour éviter tout engagement canadien en Irak - la où même l'Otan n'a pas voulu s'impliquer - attendent de nouvelles bottes.
On est loin de Chypre, ile stratégique et divisée au sein de la Méditerranée où le Canada concentrait jadis la plus grande part de ses effectifs à l'étranger. A partir de 1964 et pendant trente ans plus de 35,000 soldats canadiens y sont passés, 28 sans en revenir. Toujours d'actualité, il s'agit d'un conflit qui semble avoir survécu au concept d'interposition armée entre deux belligérants, qui fut durement mis à l'épreuve au Rwanda et dans les Balkans pendant les années 90 selon Sean Maloney, auteur de "Cold war by other means: Canada and UN peacekeeping".
Le concept a connu un échec "spectaculaire" à l'époque dit-il au National Post, puisqu'à présent les soldats "ne sont pas liés aux règles d'engagement d'un mandat de l'ONU... ils font du travail de stabilisation sous la bannière de l'Otan ou de concert avec d'autres forces occidentales".
Le plus récent déploiement, prévu au Soudan, devait avoir lieu au Darfour sous la bannière de l'Union Africaine, mais le refus du gouvernement de Karthoum, et par la suite celui de plusieurs pays africains s'opposant à l'interposition de troupes non-Africaines dans la province troublée du Soudan, ont démontré les limites des initiatives militaires canadiennes.
Le Darfour, surveillé de manière plutôt symbolique par des troupes de l'UA car encore le lieu d'atrocités des milices, devait d'ailleurs servir d'exemple en matière de solution de règlement des conflits africaine. Le concept d'une force d'interposition de l'UA a peut-être comme origine celui des casques bleus, il constitue pourtant une bien pauvre imitation des forces militaires créées en 1956.
Est-on au crépuscule de cette manifestation canadienne du maintien de la paix? Un seul soldat canadien reste symboliquement d'office dans la zone verte de Chypre, le capitaine Dan Zegarac, qui à la fin de sa tournée de deux ans en août sera remplacé par un autre individu justifiant la présence de l'unifolié dans cette zone contestée.
Ni des années de pressions internationales, de tentatives de résolution, ni la candidature de l'ile en vue de l'Union Européenne, n'ont su venir à bout de ce conflit du dernier siècle. Un changement de gouvernement récent dans le nord, la partie turque de cette ile sinon peuplée de Grecs, laisse encore flotter l'espoir de réunification et de paix, un espoir bien souvent anéanti.
Mais si le Canada semble avoir abandonné le concept, il n'en est pas de même pour tout le monde. D'autres pays semblent avoir pris le relai au sein des 17 missions de l'ONU encore en cours. Au Soudan, la mission UNMIS approuvée par le Conseil de Sécurité de l'ONU en mars dernier prévoit principalement des soldats du Tiers-monde: du Bengladesh, d'Egypte, d'Inde, de Jordanie, du Kenya, de Malaysie, du Népal, de Norvège, du Pakistan, du Royaume-Uni, de Zambie et du Zimbabwe.
Sous la gouverne du représentant néerlandais Jan Pronk se retrouvent des subalternes de Mozambique, du Bengladesh et d'Ethiopie, des pays pour lesquels une telle participation peut rimer avec une politique extérieure active. Qu'en est-il alors avec celle du Canada?
Bien que les derniers énoncés du gouvernement canadien en matière de politique de défense et affaires étrangères chantent toujours les louanges du multilatéralisme, ils sont plus discrets sur le concept de maintien de la paix traditionnel, soulignant plutôt les réalités post 11-septembre, les interventions en Afghanistan et les missions de formation, d'observation ou alors l'aide au développement.
Au lieu d'envoyer des soldats le Canada pourrait dans l'avenir plutôt financer son multilatéralisme, suivant l'exemple de l'établissement d'un "Fonds pour la paix et la sécurité dans le monde" de 100 millions de dollars, "afin de fournir une aide, du point de vue de la sécurité, aux États en déroute ou fragiles, ainsi que des ressources pour la stabilisation et le redressement après un conflit".
Alors que les missions de maintien de la paix ont connu un essor lors des années 90, 24 en tout, soit plus que lors des 40 décennies précédentes, l'ONU ne constitue pour le Canada plus nécessairement le mode d'intervention. Les documents des Affaires Etrangères le rappelent: "La résolution des conflits n'est plus l'apanage des Nations Unies. Des organismes régionaux comme l'OTAN, l'Organisation pour la sécurité et la coopération en Europe et l'Organisation de l'unité africaine s'en occupent également."
Dans la soupe à l'alphabet de sa politique internationale, le Canada se démontre bien plus capricieux.

QUEL NASH DITES-VOUS?
Prononcez le nom de Nash, et l'amateur de sport canadien profitant de ses rares moments de hockey, risque de penser à Rick, l'artilleur qui s'est hissé au premier rang des marqueurs au championnat du monde de hockey en bousculant quelques arbitres. Même dans le pays qui a inventé le basketball moderne, un effort supplémentaire sera nécessaire afin de faire penser au ballon-rond.
C'est pourtant dans cette discipline que le jeune Steve Nash de Victoria a atteint un sommet sans doute inconnu pour un canadien depuis les jours de Naismith: il a été sacré le joueur par excellence de la saison 2004-5 de la NBA.
L'athlète de 31 ans qui a notamment fait sa marque lors des jeux de Sydney en 2000 avec l'équipe nationale, a remporté le titre par une maigre mais suffisante marge de 34 points contre le colosse Shaquille O'Neil, un mastodonte de 7 pieds 2 pouces et 325 livres connu presque à la manière d'une marque de commerce mondialement.
Plus timide et modeste, Nash, qui mesure "à peine" 6 pieds 3 pouces, 1 pouce de moins que Rick, a trahi ses origines en accueillant la nouvelle avec humilité. "C'est étonnant, dit-il, il est difficile de me rendre compte qu'on a fait mention de moi au même titre que tant d'athlètes si accomplis."
Nash est seulement le second non-Américain après Hakeem Olajuwon, et parmi une poignée de joueurs au poste de meneur de jeu, à être honoré de la sorte. Il ne l'a pas volé avec ses 11.5 passes par match. Récemment échangé par les Mavericks de Dallas il n'a pas tardé, à sa 9ieme saison, de devenir un véritable capitaine pour les Suns de Phoenix. Les deux clubs s'affrontent d'ailleurs en séries éliminatoires. Sous sa gouverne le club évoluant sous les cactus a battu son record de victoires avec 62 gains au cours de la saison régulière et a pris la première place de la Conférence Ouest.
La place qu'il occupe au sein de l'histoire sportive canadienne est unique puisque, même si, selon lui, "le hockey est le premier, second et troisième titre au Canada", le ballon-rond est joué par presque quatre fois plus de pays dans le monde. "Evidemment, étant fier d'être Canadien, il y a eu plusieurs exploits canadiens au long des ans, dit le maigre champion aux cheveux longs, être reconnu parmi ces exploits est extraordinaire."

IT'S BLAIR, FOR THE LAST TIME
A campaign boring like a rainy afternoon in Kent's country-side yielded expected results as Britons again re-elected the ruling Labour party. The history-making evening of May 5 was tarnished somewhat by a lower majority and the realisation that the once youthful Tony Blair, who swept into power in 1997 on the wings of a general center-left revolution of sorts which extended across the Atlantic, is becoming a liability for his party.
While Blair marked the occasion by declaring "we can be really proud of what we've achieved," his party winning 36% of the vote to the Tories' 33%, the chastened leader, the first elected with under 40% of the tally in 30 years, admitted the numbers carried the clear signs of disappointment. "The British people wanted the return of a Labour government but with a reduced majority," Blair said. "And we will have to respond to that sensibly and wisely and responsibly."
A prime minister re-elected for a third term, for lack of alternatives according to the Economist, with a successful finance minister waiting in the wings, is a familiar scenario for Canadians. In at least one respect Brits may be hoping for nothing less than Blair to emulate Chretien and step down in mid-term, leaving the leadership to the man responsible for an economy that is the envy of Europe, Treasury chief and party rival Gordon Brown.
In U.S. terms, the Blair-Brown ticket may have helped a Labour party battered by Blair fatigue, a low turnout rate and, especially in the final weeks, popular regrets about Britain's role in the Iraq war. In fact of the big three leaders heading the coalition of the willing, Blair alone was re-elected with lower numbers, Bush and Australia's Howard having enjoyed stronger numbers in the Senate and elsewhere as they were returned to power.
The Iraq war became a major issue in the final weeks of the campaign with reports suggesting that Blair had committed himself to an American plan for "regime change" months before he told either Parliament or the people that British participation in the U.S.-led invasion was inevitable. The stories fed accusations by Tories, otherwise unable to impress Britons with their lacklustre platform, that the prime minister was untrustworthy, and was a throw back to two years ago when hundreds of thousands protested the government's participation in the war.
"Iraq has been a divisive issue in this country but I hope now that we can unite again and look to the future there and here," said Blair, but the death of British soldiers during the campaign, and the fact that Blair faced a challenge from the father of a British soldier killed in Iraq in his own riding, only made the war issue more salient in the final days of the campaign.
Labour had been hoping to ride on the coat-tails of a robust economy which created millions of jobs since 1997, a shining light that only reminded electors of the man waiting in the wings. But whoever holds the reins of power down the road, the prime minister will have to make tough choices with the rise and projected rise of public spending - at a rate comparable to Canada's - mostly in health care, turning surplus into deficit, and a possible referendum on the EU constitution up ahead, a task not aided by a reduced majority in parliament.
Europe was notably absent as a theme during the election campaign, a subject too hot to handle judging from previous campaigns to the point that it was even dropped by the Tories. The continent's sluggish economy is making it unattractive to Britons, and while a British rejection of the EU in a referendum would further increase the chasm over the Channel, a vote may not even be held if a referendum on the European constitution in France is rejected.
Blair may decide to lead the fight on the European referendum next year and bow out. If not, he could trigger a tug-of-war with Brown, with whom he has displayed solid companionship only during the campaign, that would only seem too familiar to Canadians who witnessed the ugly spat between Chretien and Martin. A losing referendum could certainly settle the matter, paving the way for a chancellor of the Exche-quer who has proven quite the Eurosceptic.
Despite Michael Howard's proclamation that a Tory recovery was well underway, the results no doubt launched a period of reflection for the conservatives, who had held on to power for four straight mandates before the charismatic Blair took the helm of Labour. The Tories did score better than during the last election where they failed to gain more than one seat, but Howard, who ran what some viewed as a fairly negative campaign, was not even endorsed by tabloids usually in the pockets of the conservatives.
The party's immigration platform failed to move voters and some stands, such as the admission that more public spending was inevitable, failed to distinguish it from the usually left-learning Labour party. Even the third-tanked Liberal democrats, who scored 22 percent of the vote, seemed to have more of a reason to cheer, largely thanks to disaffection by Labour voters. As Howard offered his resignation, Labour party members seemed to curiously have similar expectations.

CALLING THE EXTERMINATORS
A most anticipated speaker at a recent international vaccine conference in Montreal, Dr Klaus Stohr disappointed the hundreds of participants, not to mention the media, by not attending the meeting. Far from snubbing the event, Dr Stohr was knee deep in crisis mode in Geneva, keeping his eye on a pressing health scare concerning the accidental dissemination of a tainted test kit to laboratories across the world, but soon relieved many by declaring that all samples had been found.
The week-long crisis, unearthed by a Canadian lab in B.C. which identified a sample sent to laboratories across the world as being a deadly strain of the flu responsible for one of the last century's great pandemics, was just one of the crises keeping Dr. Stohr up at night.
A quickly adaptable avian flu strain in Asia, Ebola-like Marburg virus in Angola and more recently the resurgence of polio in populous Indonesia, firty years after the invention of the vaccine, are just some of the diseases the head of the World Health Organization's influenza programme, helped by national agencies such as America's Center for Disease Control and Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory in Manitoba, have been struggling to contain and defeat.
In the age of global travel and Lonely Planet followers, not to mention sprawling city life encroaching on local fauna, the world could become a major breeding ground for pandemic-like infestation. While some diseases are persistent, such as malaria, which still claims a million lives every year (especially in Africa, three times more than AIDS - a virus already wreaking havoc on the continent) others such as polio are making a comeback.
Last week a case of polio which originated in Nigeria two years ago had shown the virus had crossed an ocean to Indonesia according to WHO. Health workers suspect the virus reached Indonesia after it was contracted by either a labor worker or a pilgrim, the fourth most populous country in the world also being the world's largest Muslim nation. After the diseases that were the aftermath of this year's devastating tsunami, Indonesia hardly needed this latest crisis.
The archipelago hadn't seen the virus in ten years and is now the 16th of once polio-free countries infected by the Nigerian strain; originating in a northern region of the country - also mainly Muslim - where vaccination had been temporarily halted. A massive campaign is underway to vaccinate millions in Indonesia, particularly in West Java, which includes Jakarta. Needless to say, the WHO has dropped this year as target for eradicating polio.
Responsible for the outbreak were local rumors in Africa that the vaccination campaign had been little more than a Western plot to render Muslim girls infertile or to spread AIDS, the sort of misinformation which defeats the WHO's best efforts repeatedly. Fortunately, despite some regional clashes, Indonesia is largely peaceful. Wars have decimated vaccination campaigns in the past in war-torn regions such as Sudan and the Ivory Coast.
In Angola, a country formerly torn by conflict, hospital errors are being blamed for the persistence of the deadly Marburg virus after doctors were infected by their patients. The outbreak there, the largest so far, has killed 255 of 275 people infected as of last week, after contracting a hemorrhagic fever that can be fatal within a week. "The high-risk exposures should not have occurred," said the WHO, after enumerating cases of contamination including infected bodies left uncollected for hours and other health violations.
"Infection control procedures at the hospital have been seriously compromised," jeopardizing efforts that were reducing the number of cases of infection. Local misperception has also contributed to hampering efforts after attacks on cars to intimidate the international medical teams. "The general perception in the population was that the so-called isolation ward was something like a death trap - people would be brought in and die," Canadian doctor Heinz Feldmann told a briefing. "But the problem was that most patients who were brought into this isolation ward were already in the end stage of the disease, and that's why we had such a high mortality."
Health officials have since made efforts to allay local fears. In the mean time while the samples of the deadly H2N2 strain of the flu mistakenly sent to labs across the world were retrieved before any infection, Asia is struggling with a constantly mutating H5N1 strain of avian flu that may be getting better at infecting humans, according to health officials.
Lately the virus, which has killed over 50 people in Cambodia, Thailand, but mostly Vietnam, has sparked increasing numbers of small clusters of cases that suggest more occurrences of person-to-person spread. If the observations are true they might "indicate that the virus is evolving to be a more efficient human pathogen," says Dr. Scott Dowell, the senior official in Southeast Asia for the CDC.
Nancy Cox, the head of the CDC's influenza branch, told the Montreal conference scientists are constantly racing to stay ahead of the next strains of the flu. A challenge, she said, was to gather information quickly to be able to deal with constantly evolving types of influenza. "We are constantly moving on," she said about keeping up with new strains of viruses. Good surveillance was necessary "to stay one step ahead".
Challenges in dealing with influenza also involved standardizing data over time, detecting animal to human transmission, filling surveillance gaps and improving transparency and communication. The H5N1 virus was first detected in eight East Asian countries in 2003 and caused the deaths of 100 million birds but by last month it had leaped the species barrier and killed at least 51 people. The jump to humans has inspired the worse scenarios.
According to the CDC a "medium-level" pandemic alone could infect one-third of the U.S. population and kill 200,000 people. Applied globally roughly 2 billion people would fall ill; assuming a fairly conservative mortality rate of just 1% (down from the current 67%), that translates to 20 million fatalities.
This Hollywoodian scenario is only too real for WHO experts on the front lines, while officials on the home front struggle to secure the funds to combat ills both old and resurgent. Without a shocking event such as the Asian tsunami, which was met with a generous amount of funds, that will prove just as difficult as containing spreading diseases.

LES PREMIÈRES TÂCHES DE RATZINGER?
Après avoir surveillé de près les fenêtres de l'hôpital Gemelli puis ceux des appartements papaux, les yeux du monde, moins en larme cette fois, étaient rivés sur une petite cheminée du Vatican, où une trainée de fumée blanche, accompagnée d'un carillon, ont claironné la sélection du dernier successeur de St Pierre.
Le second jour du conclave, un favori parmi les cardinaux, Joseph Ratzinger, l'archévêque de Munich de 78 ans, est apparu au balcon du vainqueur, accompagné du titre de Benoît XVI. Le premier pape allemand depuis presque 1000 ans avait supposément la moitié des 77 votes nécessaires afin d'être élu, à son entrée au conclave la veille.
Il est visiblement sorti vainqueur des tractations secrètes entre les cliques conservatrices et progressistes qui divisaient les cardinaux. Un pape de transition en raison de son âge, deux ans en dessous de la limite permise, il aura l'occasion de faire une cure de jouvence en étant l'hôte des Jeunesses mondiales cet automne, chez lui à Cologne.
"Je m'en remets à vos prières", a-t-il dit avant de prononcer sa première déclaration urbi et orbi. Un des proches conseillers de Jean Paul II, à la tête de la Congrégation pour la
doctrine de la foi, Benoît XVI est le pape le plus âgé à sa prise de fonction depuis Clément XII, en 1730, qui avait le même âge, et le premier pape allemand depuis Victor II (1055-57).
La veille il avait prononcé un vigoureux plaidoyer en faveur d'un pape défenseur des valeurs traditionnelles de l'Eglise. Dénonçant la "dictature du relativisme", il avait souligné lors de son homélie qu'"une foi adulte n'est pas une foi qui suit le mouvement des tendances ou les dernières nouveautés".
Jeune progressiste, il est passé dans le camp conservateur après Vatican II. En 1986, il fut à l'origine de la ferme condamnation par le Vatican de l'homosexualité et du mariage homosexuel. Plus récemment, en 2004, il s'en était pris au "féminisme radical", qu'il accuse de saper les valeurs familiales et d'atténuer les différences entre hommes et femmes.
En 2000, il s'était attiré les foudres des protestants en réaffirmant dans le document "Dominus Iesus" la primauté de Rome, niant aux Protestants la qualité d'Eglise. Bras droit de Jean Paul II, son élection assure une certaine continuité.
Aussitôt vêtu de la dernière création de Ditta A. Gammarelli, le nouveau pape pourrait être préoccupé par la question de la canonisation de Jean Paul II, le sens du "santo subito" qui a retenti pendant ses funérailles, une décision qui pourrait être prise dès le mois d'octobre lors du synode des évêques à Rome.
Avant d'aller rendre leurs hommages à Jean Paul II dans la crypte de la basilique plusieurs cardinaux ont inscrit leur nom sur une pétition afin d'accélérer le processus de canonisation. Selon des règlements établis par le pontife défunt lui-même, la procédure exigeait cinq ans, mais celui-ci n'avait-il pas accéléré le processus pour mère Térésa, un an seulement après son décès en 1997?
Puis, en plus d'orienter un milliard de fidèles vers le droit chemin, le nouveau pape devra également diriger les affaires d'une église qui connait des déboires financiers. Le climat économique et financier moins que propice en Europe, jumelé à la faiblesse du dollar contre l'euro, ont plongé les affaires du Vatican dans un état déficitaire selon les derniers rapports financiers du Saint Siège.
La situation actuelle n'est pas extraordinaire puisque l'église était majoritairement déficitaire pendant plusieurs décennies jusqu'en 1993, lorsque de nouveaux règlements ont stipulé que les diocèses du monde devaient contribuer aux caisses du Vatican. Or depuis le dollar, la monnaie couramment utilisée dans ces versements, a nettement chuté contre les monnaies européennes.
Au moment de ce dernier état des comptes estival le déficit était évalué à 9.6 millions d'euros, la troisième année de suite que l'on connaissait des pertes, pour des revenus de 203 millions. Pas gratuit d'employer 2674 personnes et d'avoir développé les affaires extérieures du plus petit état au monde avec 174 autres états, sans parler du trou dans les caisses des églises américaines.

PEACE ON LAND, TROUBLED WATERS
One of the world's most highly militarized territorial disputes, one involving three nuclear nations, Kashmir has long been considered one of the most dangerous flash points anywhere. As a historic bus service between India and Pakistan was being launched in April, bombs went off at a hostel housing many of the passengers expected to make the unique journey.
But both countries seem determined to see their latest peace overtures through, deciding to stick with their plan to run a regular schedule across the tense border. It is seen as a simple yet major step toward peace, flying in the face of militants who have threatened to carry out future attacks to halt the transport link.
At this crossroads of continental tensions, India has been reaching out to neighbors which have in time become nuclear rivals. Portions of Kashmir are also under the de facto administration of China, areas until recently not recognised by India. But after discussions on the militarized boundary with China, both countries recently decided to resolve the decades-old dispute and let trade flourishs, promising a new era of "peace and prosperity" between the world's two most populous countries.
The announcement came during a four-day visit to India by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China and signaled an end to a protracted dispute over several areas along the 2,200-mile border between the countries, stretching from Kashmir to Myanmar; a geopolitical nightmare since China defeated India in a war over territory in 1962, straining relations since. The two countries have reached "a certain level of maturity," India's foreign secretary, Shyam Saran, said. "India and China are partners, and they are not rivals," he added. "We do not look upon each other as adversaries."
Indeed the two nuclear powers seem to have confirmed an old law of geo-economics which spurred the development of the European Union: that trade partners do not trade blows. Both countries are witnessing rapid economic growth, boosted by trade between them. China is in fact India's second-largest trading partner after the U.S., and both expect to increase bilateral trade from $13 billion last year to at least $20 billion in 2008.
But while peace seems to be in the air on the continent, where China and Russia - another nuclear power - have also moved to settle territorial disputes, a nasty spat has only developed along the Eastern coastline of China, where the natural border and buffer separating it from long-time rival Japan has not helped prevent tensions from simmering. Japan and China are trade partners but also economic rivals and both starving for natural resources, all the while being tied by bloody chapters of history.
The tension has not only hung in the air but descended to the streets where Chinese citizens attacked a number of Japanese businesses and government buildings in the last weeks. Fueling the protests has been the issuing of new Japanese textbooks which Beijing says play down Japan's wartime brutality, but other matters have also fed the flames.
Japan's decision to issue drilling rights in a disputed area of the East China Sea, which Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said aims to "turn a sea of confrontation into a sea of co-operation", has only been met by Chinese accusations the exploration for gas and oil in the area is a direct "provocation". In addition the Chinese protests have also been directed at Tokyo's bid for a permanent U.N. Security Council seat, seen by some as a way for Tokyo to spread its influence in an area where neighbors have not forgotten the atrocities of past wars.
In contrast India meanwhile hoped it had obtained Beijing's blessing as it has been seeking its own permanent seat under the U.N.'s latest reform drive. But while China and India are slowly resolving their border conflicts, calling their march toward peace "irreversible", the opposite can be said of Beijing and Tokyo, calling their rift the worse in thirty years. This week even the UN called for the two countries to make peace.
In addition to competing for natural resources in the region, where they have never agreed on a maritime border, both also clash on the ownership of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Japanese companies have been waiting for 40 years to be given the go-ahead to drill in the other disputed area, which has a potentially vast reserve of natural gas and oil. While Japan's economy is not seeing the growth of China's energy-hungry behemoth - this month China surpassed Japan as the world's third largest exporter and was blamed by the U.S. president for rising oil prices - it has always been heavily dependent on imported energy, a historical fact that has sent it to war in the past.
It is this painful past which is stirring passionate emotions in China as well as South Korea. The textbooks in question refer to the 1937-38 Nanjing massacre, when Japanese troops killed an estimated quarter million people, by the more innocuous title of "incident", and also claims that the country's actions during World War II were motivated by "self-preservation" and a desire to liberate Asia from Western control. Japan's foreign minister said he was disappointed China did not apologize for the attacks during a recent visit, but similar attacks have occurred against Chinese businesses in Japan.
Some see a nationalist threat in prime minister Koizumi, who after a similar history book row in 2001, started regularly visiting a symbolic shrine to the 2.5 million war dead Japan buried since 1853. But Hu Jintao, China's recently anointed top leader, adopted a similar pro-nationalist stance after taking full control of the government and military last fall.
South Korea meanwhile has been offended by the Japan's decision to make four textbook publishers refer to a disputed set of islands - called Takeshima in Japanese, and Dokdo in Korean - as Japanese territory "unlawfully occupied by South Korea". As if it wasn't enough, Taiwan was added to the long list of disputes in February, when Japan joined the US by saying Taiwan was a mutual concern, just as Beijing was looking into legislation threatening Taipei with action if it declared independence. The move, added to US pressure, probably delayed European plans to lift its embargo on arms sales to China. But the will to do so shows the importance of Chinese trade to Europe.
The fact that China, South Korea and Japan are strong economic partners has not lowered tensions, but many hope trade relations and common diplomatic efforts, such as the US-led effort to persuade North Korea to drop its nuclear ambitions, will unite more than divide.
For some the real threat comes from within China, which has manipulated popular indignation against Japan and stirred up patriotic sentiment, perhaps only a temporary way of channeling inner tensions in a country where growing wealth has been distributed unevenly.

UN SOUDAN DE PLUS EN PLUS DIVISÉ
Soudan pays divisé. Ce qui ne change pas, un an après l'indignation du monde et deux après le début des atrocités au Darfour qui ont jusqu'à present fait 300000 victimes, c'est la nature de cette division. Une anecdote sert à l'illustrer. Deux jours avant une grande réunion internationale de bailleurs de fonds pour reconstruire le sud du Soudan, l'Union africaine, impuissante malgré la présence de 3000 troupes dans l'ouest du pays, révélait qu'un groupe de 350 Jenjawids, ces milices arabes pro-gouvernementales, avaient dévasté le village de Khor Abeche, "pillant et détruisant" tout sauf la mosquée et l'école.
Ni les premières arrestations symboliques de Karthoum, ni l'appel de l'ONU de faire intervenir la justice internationale n'ont changé grand chose sur le terrain, ou l'ONU annonçait le mois dernier avoir évacué son personnel de plusieurs secteurs après avoir reçu des menaces de la part des Jenjawid. Tandis que l'on parle d'intervention massive pour reconstruire le sud et éviter une famine qui aurait des répercussions dans toute la région, la recrudescence de l'insécurité au Darfour faisait des convois de l'ONU et des autres ONG d'importantes cibles des milices arabes.
Devant de tels faits, quelques pays, dont les Etats-Unis menacent Karthoum de retenir les fonds, quelques 4,5 milliards de dollars promis pour reconstruire un sud dévasté par deux décennies de guerre civile, à moins de rappeler les cavaliers génocidaires qui s'attaquent aux populations noires de l'Ouest. "Il n'y aura pas de paix au Soudan sans que la situation au Darfour soit résolue", a déclaré le premier ministre norvégien Kjell Magne Bondevik, faisant écho de propos américains.
Lors de la conférence d'Oslo, le vice-président soudanais n'en était pas à sa première promesse de faire avancer la paix avec les rebelles du Darfour. Le Tchad, voisin du Darfour, a d'ailleurs décidé de suspendre sa médiation dans le conflit suite à un net durcissement de ses relations avec le Soudan. En attendant, le procureur en chef du tribunal international de la Haye accusait réception d'une liste de 51 noms de suspects accusés de crimes au Darfour, des noms recueillis par l'ONU qui impliquent des membres du gouvernement soudanais autant que des officiers de l'armée et des dirigeants rebelles.
C'est un pas de plus au niveau international après les réticences initiales de Washington, qui s'opposait à l'implication de la cour, mais Karthoum refuse de laisser quiconque paraitre devant le tribunal international malgré un vote au Conseil de sécurité permettant ce genre de transfert. Le vote a eu lieu après l'obtention de certaines garanties par les Etats-Unis, le pays qui a promis la part du lion de l'aide internationale, entre un et deux milliards de dollars.
Le Canada pour sa part a doublé à 180 millions sa contribution financière à la pacification au Soudan depuis 2000, en plus d'un demi-million de dollars pour faciliter les enquêtes de la cour. Ottawa s'est également engagé d'envoyer 31 soldats au Soudan pour participer à la mission de l'ONU, un geste généreux quant on connait l'état des forces armées, mais qui ne fait que confirmer la division du Soudan, au vu de la fuite des humanitaires dans l'Ouest du pays.
Pour les réfugiés du Darfour qui ont réussi à se sauver au Tchad, la situation n'est pas moins désespérée selon un rapport de l'organisation internationale de défense des droits de l'homme Human Rights Watch (HRW) selon lequel les femmes et les filles qui fuient les purges ethniques sont victimes de viols et d'autres violences sexuelles autour des camps dans lesquels elles ont trouvé refuge.

"DO NOT WEEP"
The sight of thousands of pilgrims massing in Rome's streets is an increasingly familiar scene for the Eternal city. This week over a million people waited hours upon hours to say a last farewell to their beloved pontiff, lying in state at the Vatican in crimson vestments. The head of the late John Paul II, 84, coiffed by a white mitre, rested on a golden pillow, his arms folded and a bishop's staff tucked under his arms.
As thousands took part in a special mass on Sunday, the Vatican issued the pope's death certificate, confirming he died from septic shock and heart failure and admitted for the first time one of the Vatican's worse-kept great secrets: that he suffered from Parkinson's disease.
Saturday evening, the bell of the Vatican tolled mournfully and others followed across the world, to mark the death of this bishop of Rome of modest Polish origins, the "pope of the people", who expired at 9:37pm local time. For a second consecutive day huge crowds had massed in St Peter's square to pray for the pontiff, and became silent upon hearing the news they dreaded, before applauding in a sign of respect. "Our beloved Holy Father John Paul has returned to the house of the Father" Archbishop Leonardo Sandri told the crowds.
In Krakow crowds also gathered around John Paul II's parish and prayed tearfully, Vatican flags draped with black ribbons marking the pope's passing. In Montreal religious authorities prepared for a series of special masses across the city and changed the color of the cross lit on top of the Mount royal from white to purple until a new pope is chosen.
"You came to me and for this I thank you," the Vatican quotes the pope as struggling to say in a chopped sentence and frail voice on Saturday as a private mass was celebrated around him. "I am happy and you should be happy too. Do not weep. Let us pray together in joy," he further dictated to his secretary. The pope was once more administered the Last Rites.
As the last hour trickled down, the pontiff was not only in communion with an entourage of a dozen people around his deathbed, but with the gathering of thousands below his window in the massive square who were reciting the Rosary, recalled Father Jarek Cielecki of the Vatican Service News. "Just after the prayer ended, the Pope made a huge effort and pronounced the word 'Amen'. A moment later, he died."
The pope's chamberlain formally verified the death, traditionally by calling out his name three times and tapping his forehead with a silver hammer, and then proceeded to remove the symbols of his authority, the fisherman's ring and dies used to make lead seals for apostolic letters.
The US president, who will become the first to attend the funeral of a pope, eulogized him in Washington: "We are grateful to God for sending him," he said, calling the pope "a champion of peace and freedom". Paul Martin, who will also attend the pope's funeral, called him "a true apostle of peace".
The pope's passing marks the beginning of the well-scripted protocol of mourning, funeral and burial that leads to the conclave of cardinals which will choose his successor, all starting with mass at the Vatican on Sunday. On Monday the college of cardinals met to set the wheels in motion. Church officials will be following instructions written by John Paul II in 1996, and traditions centuries old.
A nine-day mourning period will be followed by a conclave of eligible cardinals no later than 15 to twenty days after the pontiff's death. A two-thirds majority will be necessary to appoint the next pope unless the process takes too long, at which point a simple majority may be enough.
On Friday tens of thousands were gathered at St Peter's square in Rome for Rosary service amid speculation by the Italian media that the pope had passed away, which was promptly denied by the Vatican. But the general signs were ominous. Earlier in the day the Vatican said that Pope John Paul II's condition was "very grave" and suffering from organ failure after a "cardio-circulatory" collapse and septic shock on Thursday.
Both Friday and Saturday the business of the church continued with the appointment of bishops and archbishops. The Vatican said that the pope had participated in a 6 a.m. mass Friday and that "the Holy Father was conscious, lucid, and serene" in the morning. But reports had him at death's door later in the day as his health further worsened.
The Vatican had all along been issuing a series of urgent bulletins in a rare effort of transparency, a sign according to some, it was preparing the faithful for the pope's imminent demise. The news of his passing was broken to reporters in an email. Similarly unusual had been the early open pessimism expressed within Vatican walls about his condition. Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the pope's deputy for Rome, who is traditionally charged with breaking the news of a papal death, arrived at the Vatican on Friday while cardinals from around the world started to land in Italy, in preparation for the choosing of John Paul II's successor.
The pope "already sees and touches the Lord," Ruini then said. On Thursday John Paul II received the last rites for the sick and dying after suffering a high fever from a urinary tract infection, the treatment of which later triggered heart failure. This came a day after a feeding tube was inserted to help nourish the pope through the nasal passageway. The pope had reportedly been having difficulty swallowing and lost considerable weight since his recent operation. This was the second time he received final rites, the first having been following his 1981 assassination attempt.
Although administering the rites did not necessarily imply the pope was drying, any hopes of a recovery were quickly dashed. John Paul II attended Mass Thursday morning in his private chapel and proceeded to do some paperwork from an armchair when, after 6 p.m., he became ghostly pale and his blood pressure plummeted, according to accounts, starting his final struggle.
For the first time in his pontificate, the pope once dubbed as "the great communicator" was unable to perform Easter services this year, giving a silent urbi et orbi blessing after failing to utter an audible word. The pope was unable to publicly speak, despite many frustrating and painstaking efforts, since a tracheotomy was performed to help him breathe in February.
Respiratory difficulties have been compounded by the pope's Parkinsons disease and arthritis, leading to a steady deterioration of his health this year. Among a litany of ailments the pope also had a tumour removed from his colon in 1992, had a dislocated shoulder in 1993, a broken femur in 1994 and an appendix removal in 1996. Those glorious wounds.
After helping topple the Berlin wall, spreading his gospel to over 120 nations, reaching out to the youth and other religions but without watering the wine of his orthodoxy, the leader of the Catholic church is getting a well-deserved rest in the home of the maker he so diligently served during his 26-year pontificate.
The frail image of the dying pope, in his last public appearance from the window of his Vatican apartment on Wednesday, contrasted with the vitality and daring of his papacy, both in terms of what he tried to change, and tried to maintain. "The soul pulling a body", showed the strains of decades of accomplishments. John Paul II, a poet, best-selling author, avid sportsman and best-travelled pope, has been widely credited for bringing popularity to the papacy, especially among the youth for whom he designated a special regular religious gathering at times derided as "pope-stock".
Soon after his passing 71% of Americans said he should be made a saint and 67% that he was the greatest pope of all time. Many may not have remembered the previous, but then again John Paul II's star-like personal popularity did not wane despite espousing often traditional views that have appeared to clash with social trends. By some accounts John Paul II returned the church to a conservative doctrine at odds with reforms in the 1960s under Vatican II. As he lay on his deathbed, a poll of Canadian Catholics revealed 60% of them thought he had been too conservative during his papacy.
In his recently published book "Memory and Identity: Conversations at the Dawn of a Millennium", the pope evoked controversial issues concerning gay unions and abortion, the former having been recently embraced in Canada. He asked "whether this is not the work of another 'ideology of evil,' (such as Communism and Nazism) more subtle and hidden, perhaps intent upon exploiting human rights themselves against man and the family" and went so far as to suggest the "legal extermination of human beings conceived but unborn" was comparable to genocide.
The Vatican reacted strongly to news of the passing of a Terri Schiavo, the severely brain-damaged American woman whose feeding tube had been removed two weeks before. Many have come to draw parallels between the pope's temporary feeding tube, and Schiavo's permanently inserted apparatus. Under John Paul II, Vatican teaching on the final stages of life included a firm rejection of euthanasia. A 1980 Vatican document makes the distinction between means of prolonging life. While it allows for refusal of some forms of aggressive medical intervention for terminally ill patients, it insists that "normal care" must not be interrupted.
"I should like particularly to underline how the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. Its use, furthermore, should be considered, in principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such morally obligatory," John Paul II said last year in an address.
During his 12-day visit to Canada in 1984 John Paul II, the first reigning pontiff ever to visit, had referred to the need to respect the dignity of the handicapped, saying that if the world spent a fraction of what it spends on weapons to heal the infirm, miracles could happen."There must be an absolute respect for the life of a handicapped person," he said during a Quebec stop. "From conception and throughout the various stages of development." In his final days the incapacitated pontiff may have managed to rally more than a few people to his cause.
During his often politically-charged trip to Canada the pope condemned euthanasia, abortion and the "imperialism" of the West over the Third world. He also saluted minorities in all provinces he visited. When he returned in 2002 it was for his cherished World Youth Day, the last he would attend, gathering 800,000 young and old for mass in Toronto. During his stay he praised Canada as "a champion of human rights and human dignity".
This was at the height of a U.S. church sex abuse scandals which rocked the final years of his pontificate. That very weekend two US priests from New Jersey were arrested in Montreal for sollicitation. "The abuse which has caused this crisis is by every standard wrong and rightly considered a crime by society; it is also an appalling sin in the eyes of God," he deplored, but he was criticised by some for responding too late to the crisis. Those were perhaps some of the darkest hours of his papacy. Another crisis was more brief, and perhaps only emboldened him to change the world.
A man who had lived under both the Nazis and communism, forcing him to prepare for the priesthood in secrecy, he condemned totalitarianism and urged his followers to be brave, which made him the target of the Soviet empire. Files released recently confirmed the pope had been victim of a Soviet conspiracy when he survived an assassination attempt in 1981.
The Polish pontiff was widely credited for communism's downfall a decade later. Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish man who shot Pope John Paul II and was later forgiven by him, caused some consternation when he was quoted as saying Vatican prelates helped him carry out the 1981 attack in St. Peter's Square, claims quickly dismissed by a Vatican cardinal. According to Italian newspapers, documents found in the archive of the Stasi, the East German secret police, appear to confirm that Bulgarian agents, acting on the orders of their powerful KGB counterparts, used Ali Agca to carry out the attack.
There has long been speculation that the assassination attempt was carried out at the request of Soviet leaders, who were alarmed by the pope's support for the Solidarity trade union in Poland and his outspoken opposition to communist regimes. Polish authorities at the time viewed Karol Wojtyla as "a virulent anti-Communist" and under his papacy the Soviet Politburo found the Vatican to have embarked on an "ideological struggle against Social (communist) countries", according to documents gathered by Christopher Andrew in his book on the KGB "The Sword and the Shield".
A decade after the collapse of communism the pope fulfilled another of his grand ambitions by visiting the Holy Land and praying at Jerusalem's Western Wall in 2000, asking forgiveness for Catholic sins against Jews over the centuries. The 264th pope was credited for improving ties between different faiths and the following year became the first pontiff to enter a mosque, in Damascus. Attempts to reach out to the Orthodox church however were less successful. While the church is still dwindling in the West, it is rising in the Third world, an area he toured extensively, the first country he visited being Mexico. Africa has seen a particular explosion of followers and was his most travelled continent. This is prompting speculation the next pope may come from the developing world.
Before then, the mourning is universal. From the pope's birthplace of Wadowice, where people were told "not to panic", to the quake-strickened island of Nias in Indonesia, millions prayed during Karol's final hours, and among them was the man who tried to assassinate him, laying in his Istanbul prison cell. "My client is very sad," Ali Agca's lawyer told AFP. "His thoughts are with his brother, the pope, and he is praying for him."
The Polish pontiff, the first non-Italian pope in over 450 years, whose tenure was the third-longest in papal history, was the only pope for a generation of Catholic followers, having been chosen by conclave in 1978 despite being one of the "outsiders" considered for appointment. An outcome that is defying any to attempt to predict who will have the difficult task of being his successor and take over an office profoundly transformed.

LA RÉVOLUTION KIRGHIZE
A présent que l'on commence à connaitre le scénario, il faut le dire, elle avait quelquechose d'un peu brouillon cette révolution kirghize. N'ayant pas la patience des Ukrainiens, ses acteurs ont pris le gouvernement d'assaut un peu à la géorgienne, mais sans s'arrêter là.
De malheureuses scènes de violence et de saccage ont suivi dans un certaine confusion: en effet non seulement a-t-on vu une opposition divisée surgir de cet éclat, elle qui avait été prise à court par les événements, mais le président sortant, Askar Akaïev, n'avait pas dit son dernier mot, protestant, depuis la Russie, d'avoir été évincé par un putsch.
Le refuge du président dans l'ancienne patrie plaçait à nouveau Moscou dans l'embarras, elle qui ne compte plus les alliés et intérêts perdus dans le courant révolutionnaire qui s'empare des anciennes républiques soviétiques.
Cette fois si le Kirghizistan a basculé c'est sans doute parce que cet ancien "modèle" de la démocratie, dans une région de régimes de fer, n'avait pas l'estomac de la répression, comme celle qui a malmenés les quelques partisans de l'opposition en Biélorussie qui ont osé descendre dans les rues quelques jours après le renversement d'Asie centrale. Akaïev n'avait pas aussitôt servi d'ultimatum aux manifestants dans les villes du sud qu'il tentait de négocier in extremis, voyant le mouvement de contestation se répandre dans la capitale.
A l'origine un dirigeant moderne prometteur, Akaïev était devenu le modèle du parfait apparatchik, accusé de corruption et de népotisme, un despote réformé qui a eu le malheur d'essayer de manipuler les dernières élections. Par voie de communiqué il déclarait n'avoir quitté le pays que "provisoirement (...) pour éviter l'effusion de sang", traitant ses tombeurs de criminels.
Il faut dire que deux personnages notoires du gouvernement transitoire, en attendant de nouvelles élections présidentielles, étaient tombés en disgrâce. Félix Koulov, chargé de rétablir l'ordre, était un ancien du KGB devenu vice-président, puis emprisonné pour corruption en 2000. A l'époque l'actuel président intérimaire Kourmanbek Bakiev, était premier ministre.
Passé de prisonnier au poste de ministre de la Sécurité en un jour, Koulov confie au journal Libération que "la révolution n'a pas encore vraiment commencé", ce qui n'augure rien de bon pour son début de règne en perspective. "Faible et divisée, l'opposition n'était pas prête à s'emparer du pouvoir. Du coup la situation politique est loin d'être clarifiée. Mais il n'est plus possible de revenir en arrière."
C'est une affirmation que conteste Akaïev depuis son exil, tandis que l'Organisation pour la sécurité et la coopération en Europe, qui remettait en cause les résultats des élections, devait faire le point sur la crise qui opposait l'ancien parlement et celui qui a pris le pouvoir la semaine dernière.
Ironiquement alors que la légitimité du récent vote était contestée à l'origine, Koulov a averti les membres de l'ancien parlement qu'ils seraient arrêtés, rien de moins, s'ils manifestaient leur mécontentement. Une démocratie décidément à saveur locale. Deux institutions nationales, la Cour suprême et la commission électorale, ne s'entendaient d'ailleurs pas sur le parlement à reconnaitre.
A l'origine Bakiev épousait la position de la cour, jusqu'au moment où il a été approuvé par le nouveau parlement, dont il dénonçait à l'origine l'illégitimité. Compromis pour certains, pour d'autres les événements ont plutôt eu moins l'air d'une révolution que d'un coup monté.
Koulov a du moins accompli sa première tâche: mettre un terme aux pillages entrainés par les mouvements populaires. Le désordre à présent éliminé dans les rues, reste à faire de même au sein du gouvernement.
On s'entend pour dire qu'il serait préférable que Akaïev revienne au pays si ce n'est que pour renoncer au pouvoir en bonne et due forme, et mettre un terme à l'instabilité politique, chose qu'il rejette sans certaines garanties.
Les autres anciennes républiques suivent avec intérêt et étonnement le fil de ces événements, craignant dans chaque cas que ne s'éveille en elles un mouvement aussi contestataire. Une crainte palpable jusque dans les rues de Minsk.

AIR INDIA'S NEW DISASTER
Before Sept 11, even before the Pan Am blast over Lockerbie, there was the Air India disaster. After twenty years of investigation and twenty months of trial, Canadians still haven't arrested those responsible for the worse act of manslaughter in the country's history.
Days after burying the last of four officers killed in the line of duty in Alberta, the RCMP stood accused of not getting their man as the most complex trial in Canadian history collapsed with the acquittal of two suspects charged in Canada's worse act of terrorism.
The two Sikh men facing counts of murder and conspiracy for planting two bombs, which went off within an hour of each other on June 23, 1985, one killing all 329 passengers of Air India Flight 182, were cleared of charges in B.C. court, drawing gasps and wails from the packed crowd in the high-security court-room, a shock which reverberated across the Pacific where a nation awaited the judge's verdict in the middle of the night.
When it fell, it was with full force, dumb-founding millions, reopening wounds instead of bringing closure to families still grieving, sparking fears of renewed tensions in Canada's Indo-Sikh community and even casting Canada as a haven for terrorists. A passion which has carried the trial forth for months and, in the eyes of the judge, poorly covered a lack of evidence and credible prosecution witnesses.
Justice Ian Josephson of the B.C. Supreme Court said he found the witnesses at the heart of the prosecution's case against Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri simply not credible. They included a woman who taught at a primary school run by Malik who said that the two had been in love and that he had admitted planting the bomb that destroyed Air India.
"He [said], `We had Air India crash. Nobody, I mean nobody, can do anything. It is all for Sikhism'," she alleged that Malik had told her in April 1986. She also testified that in 1997 he confessed that he was the one who had bought two tickets to fly the bombs out of Vancouver in order to make connections with Air India flights in Toronto and Tokyo, where one of them exploded, killing two baggage handlers.
Josephson said evidence by the star witness against Malik that she still loves and respects him and was betraying him by testifying was unbelievable from such an intelligent and strong woman. "That surprise edges toward incredulity," Josephson said. "She has not been truthful with court and I am unable to rely on her evidence."
Lack of motive wasn't one problem. Bagri had been shown on tape calling for young Sikhs to rise up and take revenge against the Indian government. "Until we kill 50,000 Hindus, we will not rest," he shouted at a July 1984 New York rally, shortly after India's government ordered a raid on Sikhism's holiest shrine, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, enraging Sikhs all across the world. In October of that year Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh body guards in retaliation.
What made the prosecution's failure so flagrant was that two others associated with the attacks, who had once been in Canadian custody within months of the blasts, faced their own brand of justice. Just before the trial began in 2003 a third man, Inderjit Singh Reyat, who was already serving a ten-year sentence for the Tokyo airport bomb, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to five years in jail. The man whom investigators suspected what the mastermind of the plot, Tarwinder Singh Parma, who was also an immigrant to Canada, died in a police shoot-out in India in 1992.
The two had been arrested by RCMP in 1985 in connection with bombings but the charges were soon dropped against Parmar while Reyat was fined for a minor, unrelated charge. Malik and Bagri for their part walked out of the court-room free men but under high protection.
The Malik family released a statement on the web-site notguilty.org which faulted the authorities: "Our family deeply sympathizes with the families of those that died in this horrific tragedy. The anger and sadness that the families are going through because of today's decision should be directed towards the RCMP and Crown. They had given these families a false hope of justice by proceeding with a case without merit."
They maintained they were not surprised by the verdict as he had claimed Malik's innocence all along. They were certainly among the minority of those in attendance, some 40 supporters of the defendants who cheered and pumped their fists when the verdict was read.
Not helping the prosecution's case was the fact that, unlike the Lockerbie bombing later tied to Libya, the Air India jet exploded over the sea. Some witnesses had reportedly been too intimidated to come forward in the tense atmosphere that followed the bombing. As the case was being built there were also indications evidence has been either misplaced or even destroyed, a discredit to the RCMP and CSIS, which at the time was in its infancy. Indian intelligence says it warned Canada of a Sikh plot but wasn't specific.
Adding insult to injury, the judge pointed out certain established facts: that there had been a conspiracy and an act of terror, all of which originated on Canadian soil. The RCMP quickly announced the investigation, which has seen its costs swell above $100 million, was on-going.
Opposition leader Stephen Harper deplored that "justice was not done" during trial and asked a public inquiry but Deputy Prime Minister and Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan refused to agree, saying the government needs more time to review the judgement and was doubtful an inquiry would shed more light on the case.
Relatives of the victims questioned the process as soon as they were able to make sense of the verdict. "Why did they even have this trial?" said Rattan Singh Kalsi, 75, a London, Ont., man whose daughter died in the Air India bombing. "We were suffering anyway. Now we will suffer more."
The families were further distraught, in the course of the trial, by finding out that many passengers sitting in the rear had probably survived the initial explosion and the terrifying dive into the sea, only to be drowned in the most awful circumstances imaginable. Examination of these 131 bodies recovered from the sea in the days after the crash had therefore showed no signs of any explosion.
"These hundreds of men, women and children were entirely innocent victims of a diabolical act of terrorism unparalleled until recently in aviation history," Judge Josephson said in his verdict. "Justice is not achieved, however, if persons are convicted on anything less than the requisite standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt." This provided little comfort to families still grieving 20 years later.
Across the Pacific, a country grieved as well. "Terrorism is an action for which there can be no justification under any circumstances," an Indian government statement read. "We share the sense of outrage among the relatives and friends of those who lost their lives in that attack that after almost two decades, the culprits have not been brought to account." Many are now pinning whatever hopes they have left in a full inquiry twenty years after the fact.

AU SERVICE DE LA TUNIQUE
Le premier aurait pu être musicien, le second s'était miraculeusement remis d'un accident de moto, un autre attendait son second enfant tandis que le dernier n'était même pas officiellement de service; tous les quatre étaient dévoués à la tunique rouge, l'incarnation de l'unifolié, et à une mission qui se chante comme une louange: maintiens le droit.
Tous plus jeunes que 33 ans, ils étaient en début de carrière, à la fleur de l'âge, ce qui rend l'assassinat de quatre agents de la GRC, le plus sanglant depuis la rébellion de Louis Riel, incompréhensible d'un océan à l'autre.
Dans les petites communautés de l'interminable campagne canadienne, comme celle de Mayerthorpe, une bourgade de quelques centaines d'habitants à environ 130 kilomètres au nord-ouest d'Edmonton, comme ailleurs à travers cette trop riche géographie, la seconde étendue au monde, la police montée est seule à faire la loi.
En 4x4 plutôt qu'à cheval, ces légendes du septentrion forment les unités de police des plus respectées. A part chez ceux qui, comme James Rozsko, ce fermier de 46 ans au lourd passé criminel et qui ne cachait pas sa haine envers les autorités, ont décidé de vivre en marge de la société.
Au cours des 30 dernières années, il a été reconnu coupable de vol, vandalisme, possession d'armes, agression armée et agression sexuelle. Lorsque deux agents se sont présentés chez lui la veille de la tragédie il était question d'effectuer une saisie de biens sur ordonnance de la cour. Sur les lieux ils ont découvert une culture de marijuana et recueilli des éléments de preuve afin de pouvoir obtenir un mandat de perquisition.
Le lendemain les quatre agents surveillaient les lieux en attendant d'autre unités et, selon les renseignements de la police, seraient tombés dans une embuscade. Rozsko, un personnage renié par son père - qui ne lui parlait plus depuis des années -, aurait abattu les agents avec une arme de calibre militaire avant de s'enlever la vie. En peu de temps les unités spéciales et forces armées ont été dépêchées sur les lieux où ils ont fait la macabre découverte de cinq corps.
Les coups de feu ont retenti à travers le pays pendant les jours qui ont suivi. Il faut remonter aux jours de la prohibition pour retrouver un drame de cet ampleur. Si à l'époque le débat pouvait être animé autour de l'interdiction du whisky, c'est autour du cannabis que les arguments s'entrechoquaient à Ottawa, lieu de la convention du parti libéral, où l'agenda a été quelque peu troublé par les événements de l'ouest canadien.
Parcourant la pleine complexité de la question des drogues douces, les délégués ont voté en faveur d'un durcissement des peines imposées aux trafiquants de drogue, dont la mari, mais ont du même souffle demandé au gouvernement Martin de légaliser la marijuana. Le solliciteur général de l'Alberta, Harvey Cenaiko, demandait quant à lui au gouvernement fédéral d'empêcher la décriminalisation pour la possession de petites quantités de marijuana.
Alors qu'elle estimait que le débat pouvait attendre les obsèques, la ministre de la Sécurité publique, Anne McLellan, a laissé entendre qu'il était temps que les juges se montrent sévères à l'endroit des trafiquants et producteurs de cannabis. "En un sens, je crois qu'il est temps que le système judiciaire réfléchisse aux conséquences de la dure réalité de la culture intensive [de cannabis] sur les communautés et sur la société", a-t-elle noté. Le gouvernement restait favorable à la décriminalisation de la mari, mais il était question de s'en tenir là, rappelait-elle: "Ce gouvernement n'appuie pas du tout la légalisation de la marijuana, c'est très clair".
Un avis que ne partage pourtant pas le nouveau-venu du parti libéral, Marc Boris Saint-Maurice, ancien chef du Parti marijuana, qui souligne un parallèle avec l'alcool: "Historiquement, on a vu qu'à l'époque de la prohibition aux États-Unis, Al Capone utilisait la violence de façon incroyable pour contrôler le marché. Aujourd'hui, on a un marché légal d'alcool et il n'y a pas de violence pour contrôler ce marché. Je ne vois pas pourquoi ce ne serait pas la même chose pour la marijuana".
Emu aux larmes, comme tant d'hommes en uniforme ces derniers jours, le commissaire de la GRC, Giuliano Zacardelli signalait la violence croissante liée à la production du cannabis ces dernières années. "La production de cannabis est devenue un fléau d'un océan à l'autre. Cette tragédie va certainement nous amener à réviser nos procédures d'intervention".
Celles du jour du drame n'étaient pas remises en question, estime la GRC, qui soutient que les agents répondant à l'appel étaient bien armés et assez nombreux, et que leur expérience n'avait rien à faire avec l'ampleur de la tragédie. D'autres ne sont pas du même avis et reprochent au service de police de ne pas avoir employé assez de précaution en envoyant de jeunes agents confronter un criminel connu, armé et très instable.
Si la population entière a été choquée par le drame, le dernier à frapper une communauté rurale de l'ouest après l'atrocité de la ferme Pickton, il n'empêche qu'un des frères du meurtrier estime presque avoir vu le coup venir. Quelques jours après la tuerie, le père, Bill, sait qu'il est persona non grata au sein de sa communauté, mais a pris une décision importante pour une raison autre que sa sûreté: "Je n'irai pas aux funérailles de mon fils. Il n'est plus mon fils, dit-il. Ce qu'il a fait est horrible, dément".
Pendant ce temps au détachement local de la GRC, les cornemuses retentissent sous les drapeaux en berne. Les noms de Peter Christopher Schiemann, 25 ans, Anthony Fitzgerald Orion Gordon, 28 ans, Lionide Nicholas Johnston, 32 ans et Broack Warren Myrol, 29 ans, sont associés à une triste page d'histoire canadienne.
De l'autre côté de l'Atlantique, l'Italie enterrait lors d'obsèques nationales un agent, Nicola Calipari, tué par des tirs américains alors qu'il rapatriait l'ex-otage et journaliste italienne Giuliana Sgrena après sa libération à Bagdad. Autre continent, même tragédie liée au devoir parfois sans merci attaché à l'uniforme.

LATIN AMERICA VEERS LEFT
The scenes of jubilation that accompanied the election of a new president in the streets of Montevideo meant something historic not only for tiny Uruguay, but the whole of Latin America as well. Dr. Tabare Vazquez became the country's first socialist president last week, joining the ranks of left-leaning leaders in Latin America - now six in all.
On a continent historically divided between extreme right-wing regimes and communist revolutionary followers, this more center-leaning take of leftists, both comfortable of restoring ties with Castro without being too allergic to free-market policies, is relatively new. For Uruguay the move marks a decidedly left bent after 170 years of moderates in power, joining a continental left-leaning consensus in South America that united three-quarters of the region's 355 million people in the last few years.
This is partly a result of the failure of free-market reforms in the 1990s, emphasizing the need for a more egalitarian approach to economics in countries such as Argentina, Ecuador and Venezuela. The embodiment of this pragmatic left-leaning approach careful not to upset financial institutions or the U.S. giant is Brazil's Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. While the former hard-core marxist turned progressive is no longer the toast of the Latin continent, he helped usher in this period of new leadership.
Like him many of the new leaders have roots on the revolutionary left but now seem inspired less by ideology. Among them Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez, a notable supporter of Castro, is probably the most fiery character, if only his country's oil wasn't so important to the United States.
Others tend to be less populist characters and remain cautious without being overtly anti-American. Two years after the political and financial earthquake which turned the country's presidency into a game of musical chair, Argentina's President Néstor Kirchner occasionally defies the International Monetary Fund but avoids budget deficits and other matters that could upset investors like the plague.
This new mainstream approach seeks in part to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor while remaining open to markets and trade, especially as countries such as Brazil and Venezuela move toward economic alliances and agreements and as the U.S. pushes for continental free-trade, something participants of Quebec city's 2001 Summit of the Americas promised would happen this year, before running into roadblocks.
Free-trade isn't always greeted enthusiastically in the Americas. In the 1990s protest by Mexico's Chiapas Indians sparked a global movement against free-trade. Last week thousands of protesters in Guatemala City demonstrated against a pending free-trade agreement between Central America and the United States, calling for a referendum on the issue. The effort to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas, supposed to include every country in the Western Hemisphere except Cuba, has been stalled for months with Brazil and the U.S. notably remaining far apart on a number of issues.
Uruguay's skepticism with U.S. free-market policies helped Vazquez rise to the presidency. When he addressed the cheering flag-waving crowd of thousands on his inauguration, Vazquez pointed out "I have not come alone". He meant the country's population stood firmly behind him, but could have also designated other leaders of the pink Latin American revolution, Hugo Chavez, Kirchner and da Silva, all looking on along with Chile's Ricardo Lagos, as the crowd cheered.
Despite its usual designation of "Switzerland of the Americas" as one of Latin America's most stable economies, Uruguay has come off a rough period, climbing out of a 2002 depression in which the economy shrank by 11 percent, leaving one of every three Uruguayans below the poverty line. During the campaign Vazquez pledged to help the poor but like Brazil's Lula, rejected many hard leftist policies which scared off voters in the past. The solution, many in Latin America now agree, lies in a political middle-ground of sorts.
"We have changed because the world has changed," said former Tupamaro guerrilla leader Uruguay Senator José Mújica in an interview. "We live in a unipolar world in which attempts at socialism have failed and there are no alternatives. We have to take a pragmatic line." Vazquez' rise to power lifts the hope of people on both sides of the spectrum.
Among his first measures as president Vazquez re-established relations with Cuba and signed a $100m anti-poverty programme. "I'm praying this means we will eventually have a better Uruguay," said flag-waving supporter Hugo Folena. "One where there is better public health, better public education and work opportunities for everyone."

THE GOSPEL OF THE SUFFERING
A pope for whom suffering is a statement on the strength of the human spirit once more had the eyes of the world turned to the windows of Gemelli hospital after suffering a relapse of an earlier bout of the flu earlier this year. Hours after he was readmitted to the hospital he had visited for nine days earlier in the month John Paul II was rushed to surgery to ease his laborious breathing by means of a tracheotomy.
The procedure suggested the pontiff had in fact suffered more than just the relapse of his earlier illness and only began the latest string of speculation on the future of the papacy which hangs in the balance. Usually silent hospital officials confirmed the pope's illness had seen "complications" impairing his breathing.
John Paul II, who has been the only living pope for young Catholics barely a quarter century old, has suffered many ailments since he was shot in a 1981 failed assassination attempt. They include Parkinsons disease, which may have made the elective surgery necessary.
After the thirty minute intervention a spokesman for prime minister Berlusconi reported that the pope had quickly awakened from surgery and was in good spirits. The Vatican said the pontiff was not breathing through a respirator the next day, and added the risks of pneumonia had been averted but was asked not to speak until he further recovered.
At 84, this has become a recurring theme surrounding a papacy increasingly spreading the gospel of suffering for the sins of others, as Jesus once did. "Human suffering evokes compassion," John Paul wrote in 1984, the year he travelled across Canada, "it also evokes respect, and in its own way it intimidates."
As the toll of the years added to the injuries and the illnesses, the suffering became inherent with the job of leading the world's billion Catholics. "I must lead her with suffering," he said of the church in 1994, "the pope must suffer so that every family and the world should see that there is, I would say, a high gospel: the gospel of suffering, with which one must prepare the future."
In this future, the pope sees nothing short of leading the faithful until his walking stick slips from his limp hands. As recently as a few days ago, he adamantly rejected the notion he should step down. "Christ didn't come down from the cross," he once said. Also just days ago, following his nine-day hospitalization, he reminded those gathered to watch him from his Vatican apartment window the virtues of pain. "Your suffering is never useless... it's a precious thing," he said.
This is something those gathering around the world to pray for John Paul II, including the many flocking to Montreal's oratory, can understand with all their faith, if they know the meaning of the cross that sits on the city's highest peak. People gathered in Krakow as well. That's where originated the archbishop who in 1978 became the first Polish pontiff, then a symbol of youth and vitality, at 58.
His support of his country's Solidarity movement played no small part in ushering the end of Communism according to many scholars. Conservative on many issues such as divorce, contraception and abortion, he also embraced modern technologies to spread his gospel across the world, which his many travels led him to circle some 27 times.
As he painstakingly came down the stairs of the plane that brought him on his latest trip to Canada, for the 2002 Youth gathering in Toronto, his message of suffering was evident to the expecting masses, as it was this weekend when he briefly appeared at his hospital window. One he conveys now more than ever, regardless how near heaven's door.

THE LIMITS OF THE ORANGE REVOLUTION
It was the ultimate celebration of Ukraine's revolution. The song that became the anthem of Ukraine's "orange revolution", the hip-hop tune Together we are many! (Razom nas bagato!) by Greenjolly, was chosen to represent the country at this year's Eurovision song contest. It was fitting because from Eastern Europe to the Middle East people have not ceased to sing the praises of the movement that shook the world well beyond Kiev last Fall.
In the streets of Lebanon protesters mustered their courage and in a country usually run by Damascus and over-run by Syrian intelligence officers and soldiers, defied a protest ban and poured into the streets of the capital, bringing down the pro-Syrian government two weeks after the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri.
In a changing Middle-east where Palestinians and Iraqis went to relatively untroubled polls, Egypt promises multi-party elections and even Saudi Arabia made a democratic effort it promises to extend to women in the future, times are becoming harder for strongmen and dictators. While America's tough stance on despots and promise to spread freedom has procured international and moral support, the orange revolution has brought the inspiration, to the streets of cities where protests were once harshly dealt with.
Too bad this isn't becoming as commonplace in other former Soviet republics. Among the USSR's most remote and impoverished regions, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, held elections that were more of the same rather than anything new. The usual complaints of violations and irregularities abounded with little hope they would lead to the popular challenges seen in the Ukraine and Georgia.
Initial results from international observers seemed to suggest that both governments were continuing on authoritarian ways, trying to exclude opposition groups despite the promise of free and fair elections. You could say they learned from the top. Indeed mother Russia could learn a lesson or two from the Ukrainian vote, according to Washington.
Days after president George Bush raised the issue of rights in a meeting with Vladimir Putin in Europe, the State Department issued an unmistakable criticism of what has been a staunch U.S. ally in the war on terror. "In Russia changes in parliamentary election laws and a shift to the appointment, instead of election, of regional governors further strengthened the power of the executive branch," the report says. "Greater restrictions on the media, a compliant Duma (parliament), shortcomings in recent national elections, law enforcement corruption, and political pressure on the judiciary also raised concerns about the erosion of government accountability."
The criticism was extended to another ally in the war on terror, Saudi Arabia, which recently held elections limited to certain male voters. "The record of human rights abuses and violations... still far exceeds the advances" while "the government continued to restrict freedoms of speech and press, assembly, association and movement". The conservative kingdom is perhaps the last place one would expect the kind of orange-clad sweeping street protest that is the latest incarnation of people power.
In Kyrgyzstan, some opposition leaders did wear yellow scarves as a sign of identification with Ukraine's Orange revolution, while protests drew thousands. Some of the demonstrators even occupied state buildings and blocked roads. But opposition leaders in Tajikistan were much less brave despite the outrage that followed preliminary results giving the governing party 80% of the votes, an election which drew a failing grade from international monitors and a warning from Washington, despite earlier praise that President Emomali Rakhmonov had brought stability since the end of the country's civil war.
The memories of the war which killed 100,000 and ended in 1997 are too fresh and too many of the leaders who wielded the guns are very much in power, some say. "Here a lot of the people who led the shooting during the civil war are still in power," one of them tells the New York Times. "They will shoot again, so it's very dangerous to call people to the street. We must be patient."
Other post-Soviet republics are equally divided. Some experts argue that while a gentle revolution may be possible in semi-authoritarian Kazakhstan, as in Kyrgyzstan, prospects are very different in Uzbekistan because civil society is barely developed there. A recent protest in Tashkent could be a hint that instability may lie just beneath the regime's hard surface. In gas-rich former Soviet republics like Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan, current hard-line rulers regularly squash dissent.
"In absolutely authoritarian regimes ... the threat of 'Orange Revolution' is just used by the leaders to crack down harder," says Masha Lipman, an expert with the Carnegie Center in Moscow in an interview. "There is no chance for the opposition to actually organize anything, much less a revolution." People there only have dreams of orange dancing in their heads.
But even where the so-called people revolution has spread its wings, especially Lebanon, there is a fear winds the change may only turn out to be a passing breeze. The day Syrian troops were starting to move out, Beirut's streets were packed by flag-waving Lebanese showing their support for Damascus. (Disappointing many opposition supporters, the Lebanese parliament chose to nominate the pro-Syrian prime minister it had ousted weeks before).
Ukraine had seen similar competing protests in the more pro-Russian eastern half of the country. But no two scripts are exactly the same and even the Eurovision officials admitted this. Days before the music show was to air, parts of the orange revolution theme were rewritten because the song was deemed "too political".

LE NÉPAL EN CRISE
Alors que les deux puissances nucléaires rivales calment le jeu en ouvrant de nouvelles lignes de communications au Cachemire, le petit royaume du Népal est venu gâter une période de paix relative sur le sous-continent indien.
L'état d'urgence était toujours de rigueur le 18 février dernier lorsque le Népal célébrait sa Journée de la démocratie, le royaume ne manquant pas d'ironie à une période où le roi conserve tous les pouvoirs, des centaines d'opposants se trouvent en prison et la presse reste lourdement censurée. Pour rajouter au drame comique, les autorités ont coupé les lignes téléphoniques afin d'empêcher les rassemblements contestataires.
Une quinzaine de militants ont été arrêtés en tentant de participer à des manifestations, pour l'heure toujours bannies. "Les activités terroristes, associées à une politique nettement éloignée de l'homme de la rue, ont stimulé l'instabilité dans la nation, mettant en danger la démocratie", a déclaré le monarque Gyanendra lors de son allocution le jour de la célébration.
Celui-ci a pris les pleins pouvoirs le 1er février, en accusant le gouvernement d'avoir été incapable de mettre un terme à la guérilla maoïste qui sévit depuis 1996. Presque anéantie dans le passé, la monarchie himalayenne a retrouvé toute sa puissance, mais non sans créer un tollé diplomatique.
Soustrait de la couronne britannique en 1923, le Népal a retrouvé sa monarchie en 1951. A peine dix ans plus tard celle-ci impose sa loi en faisant annuler les élections populaires de 1960 remportées par le Nepali Congress Party (NCP). Le roi Mahendra limoge alors le Premier ministre, suspend le Parlement et interdit tous les partis politiques. Deux ans plus tard une nouvelle Constitution remplace le pluralisme démocratique par un système de conseils élus placés sous la tutelle du roi.
En 1985 le NCP lance une campagne de désobéissance civile pour la restauration du pluripartisme qui devient mortelle, en 1990, lors de manifestations durement reprimées par l'armée. Le roi Birendra acceptera plus tard l'adoption d'une nouvelle Constitution en levant l'interdiction des partis politiques mais une motion de censure en 1994 fera tomber le gouvernement du NCP élu lors des premières élections démocratiques de 1991. C'est en 1996 que débute l'insurrection maoïste dans les zones rurales, faisant 11000 victime depuis.
Ce mois-ci le dernier échec des négociations provoque le blocus des insurgés et précipite le limogeage du premier ministre Sher Bahadur Deuba. Le roi déclare alors l'état d'urgence, supprime toutes les libertés individuelles et s'octroie tous les pouvoirs avant de former un gouvernement de onze membres placés sous son autorité.
On retrouve alors l'ordre d'après-guerre en quelque sorte, mais la pression internationale n'a pas tardé à se faire sentir. Amnesty International a appelé les pays étrangers à suspendre leur aide militaire, une proposition "sérieusement envisagée" par Washington, Bruxelles et New Delhi, menaçant une assistance militaire essentielle pour ce pays pauvre. Les pays européens ont fait savoir leur désapprobation en rappelant leurs ambassadeurs le 14 février.
Pendant ce temps la presse rapportait la mort d'une quarantaine de maoïstes tués lors d'opérations des forces de sécurité dans l'Ouest et Sud-Ouest du pays. Quelques jours plus tard les maoistes faisaient des victimes lors du blocus temporaire mais pénible de la route de Katmandou. Selon certains estimés on recense quelques 9000 rebelles dans le pays et quelques 40000 sympathisans, généralement aidés par des groupes militants en Inde.
Alors que son pays reste opposé à la mainmise du roi, le ministre de l'intérieur indien estime que les maoistes ne vont qu'aggraver la situation en poursuivant la lutte armée. De son côté Ram Saran Mahat, un des principaux dirigeants de l'opposition népalaise, accuse le roi de transformer le royaume himalayen en état policier. ''N'importe qui peut être traité de terroriste au nom de la sécurité nationale à présent, dit-il, toute activité normale est surveillée par les forces de l'ordre, l'armée et la police."
A présent omnipotente, la monarchie népalaise se remet toujours mal de l'assassinat du roi Birendra par son fils, le prince héritier Dipendra, en juin 2001. Cet acte sanglant, qui fit parmi ses victimes la reine ainsi que sept autres sujets royaux, permit l'ascension de Gyanendra. Cinq ans après le début de la rébellion, cet acte d'une rare violence, démontrait à nouveau que malgré l'isolation que lui procurent géographie et topographie, le royaume montagnard est bien loin d'être un oasis de sérénité au coeur d'un continent trop tendu.
Presqu'immédiatement l'engagement démocratique du monarque a été remis en question par les masses survoltées. Depuis, celui-ci a limogé son premier ministre deux fois, tandis que se poursuit la rébellion anti-monarchique du maquis.

LE LONG PARCOURS DES KURDES
Persécutés sous le régime d'Ankara, assassinés au gaz par celui de Saddam Hussein, l'histoire kurde est truffée de tragédies les unes plus tristes que les autres. Or c'est une page bien plus heureuse qui vient de s'écrire lors des élections irakiennes conférant la deuxième place à un bloc de partis kurdes qui détient la clé du pouvoir du nouveau gouvernement.
Avec le quart des 8,5 millions de votes, les deux partis kurdes, qui ont fait front commun, seront incontournables, car malgré sa victoire attendue la liste de partis chiites n'a pas atteint la majorité absolue à elle seule, une déception avec 48% des suffrages.
Ce résultat garantit aux millions de kurdes d'Irak leur autonomie, mais saura-t-il mettre les rêves de Kurdistan au rancart ou constitue-t-il un embyon de future nation kurde? A ceux pour qui la nation irakienne est vouée à la séparation la réponse est peut-être plus évidente, mais aux autres qui croient aux efforts de réconciliation nationale sous une nouvelle administration inclusive rien n'est certain.
Officieusement autonome depuis 1974, la partie kurde du pays est quasi-indépendante depuis la fin de la première guerre du golfe et l'imposition de zones de non-survol par les alliés. Depuis cette époque, les Kurdes savent qu'ils peuvent compter sur un soutien international et surtout américain, étant devenus des alliés importants de Washington. Leur taux de participation fut bien au-dessus de la moyenne irakienne de 58%, le fruit de la mise au placard des différends historiques entre les deux grands partis, l'Union patriotique du Kurdistan et le Parti démocratique kurde, et la création d'une union politique qui comprenait également des Assyriens et Turcomans.
L'avenir de ce mariage de circonstance sera-t-il le reflet d'un Irak éclaté entre Kurdes, sunnites - quasi-invisibles lors des élections - et chiites omniprésents? La mobilisation du moins avait quelquechose de prometteur, conférant aux Kurdes une représentation supérieure à leur poids démographique en raison du taux de participation et du boycott sunnite. La réussite kurde est aussi une mince consolation pour l'ethnie qui jadis dominait les postes administratifs, ceux-cis étant majoritairement sunnites musulmans.
D'une caste de rejetés, les kurdes deviennent très prisés sur l'échiquier, pouvant soit aider les chiites à compléter leur majorité, soit le parti de l'actuel premier ministre intérimaire à créer un bloc assez massif pour tenir tête aux chiites. Ces derniers demandent d'ailleurs des explications à la commission électorale qui avait pourtant estimé qu'ils remporteraient 60% des suffrages, plus proche de la proportion du nombre de chiites dans la population. "Nous allons demander aux membres de la commission comment ils ont traité un certain nombre d'urnes à Mossoul et dans d'autres lieux, avec lesquelles ils ont dit avoir eu des problèmes," a déclaré le numéro deux de la liste de l'Alliance irakienne unifiée, le cheikh Houmam Hamoudi.
Les kurdes sont d'autant plus maitres chez eux puisqu'ils ont également élu un parlement autonome kurde de 111 sièges, obtenant 60% des suffrages dans certaines régions du nord. Mais au niveau national, cela signifie un certain nombre de cabinets importants et peut-être même la présidence. "Voilà qui démontre que les Kurdes constituent une force efficace en Irak et qu'ils ne forment plus des citoyens de seconde classe", déclarait Massoud Barzani du PDK, pour qui le Kurde Jalal Talabani semble un choix évident pour briguer la présidence.
Certes après ce premier exercice électoral il y a le souci de la place des sunnites, puis celui de gouverner en coalition, mais ce ne sont pas les soucis de l'heure dans les centres du nord comme Mossoul ou Kirkouk. De manière générale, avec les gestes conciliateurs d'Ankara, dopés par la volonté de devenir membre de l'UE, les autres Kurdes de la région, notamment les 10 millions vivant en Turquie, vivent à leur manière cette âge de promesse, des décennies après le traité de Sèvres qui au siècle dernier leur avait promis un état autonome.
Mais les millions de Kurdes hors-Irak suivent avec jalousie l'épanouissement électoral des cousins irakiens, dont le calvaire en 1988 avait identifié Saddam Hussein comme un boucher sanguinaire, et amorcé sa longue descente dans un trou dont il n'est pas ressorti chef d'Etat.

THE U.N. UNDER SCRUTINY
Critics of the United Nations, notably those who have accused it of mismanagement for years, feel particularly ill at ease that the world body is being entrusted with the tremendous outpouring of aid money following the devastating Asian tsunami just as many of the irregularities of the oil-for-food program in Iraq are coming to light.
Declaring himself shocked of the findings of an independent inquiry on the matter, Secretary-General Kofi Annan quickly sacked the head of the program following widespread accusations of misconduct. Much of the $64-billion (U.S.) humanitarian program was found to have enabled Saddam Hussein to collect funds during an international embargo the U.S. said did not work and required more direct action, millions also went into the pockets of Western contractors close to the Iraqi regime.
In part the interim report blamed former head of the program Benon V. Sevan of violating the United Nations Charter by helping a company owned by a friend obtain valuable contracts to sell Iraqi oil. Under the program, Iraqi oil revenues were supposed to buy relief goods for Iraqis.
Critics of U.N. mismanagement cringe as the organization is given full management of hundreds of millions in tsunami relief aid money, even as the U.N. has vowed to be careful about the funds. Of the $900 million pledged the U.N. has received approximately a third so far.
Annan said he will immediately embark on a series of changes in how the world body is organized and does business in order to win back the confidence of the international community, especially its biggest funds provider, the U.S., but some fear the scandal could derail some of these efforts. And sometimes the scrutiny has been getting close and personal, especially as questions rose surrounding the controversial allocation of a contract to a company employing his son.
Annan's deputy, Canadian Louise Fréchette says the U.N. is generally speaking at a critical juncture, member countries facing a choice between reform or the status quo, which would put the U.N. at risk of losing relevance. In an interview with The Globe and Mail she said recent recommendations contained in a widely read U.N. report will go a long way toward reinvigorating the world body and strengthening its ability to deal with important issues.
"There is a tremendous opportunity to make the U.N. more capable than it is now of dealing with the full range of the threats to peace and security," she told the paper, acknowledging widespread criticism of the 191-member institution, especially in the United States.
The report in part recommended that the organization adopt a definition of terrorism that would outlaw any targeting of civilians and lay out a clear principle known as "responsibility to protect" that would guide UN interventions in intrastate conflicts. The U.N. has come under great criticism over its handling of the crisis in the Sudan, standing accused of talking up a storm about the definition of "genocide" - a term used by others, including the U.S., which it refuses to employ - rather than doing anything to stop it.
The U.N. is also told to enhance the Security Council's ability to police proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, at a time Iran is coming under considerable pressure to shelve its nuclear program and North Korea claims to have nuclear capabilities. The report also recommended that the Security Council establish a "peace-building commission" that would identify countries at risk of "state failure" and provide assistance to reverse that slide, together with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
Separately the U.N. is criticized of having little discipline over the peace-keeping troops under its command, following allegations of sexual abuse by U.N. civilian staff and soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, some of them recorded on videotape according to U.N. officials investigating the matter.
Following the scandal U.N. peacekeepers there have been banned from having sex with locals and six blue helmets were arrested. Some of the charges are looking into claims of sexual abuse of girls as young as 13-year-old, this as other U.N. agencies try to fight everything from child soldiers to child prostitution. The victims were usually given food or small sums of money in return for sex according to the Office of Internal Oversight Services watchdog. In short the U.N. faces a litany of image-damaging problems.
Fréchette is playing down tensions between the United Nations and Washington, and rejected suggestions that the U.N. should serve as a counterweight to the United States, the world's sole superpower. "I think it would be a real mistake in viewing the UN and whatever reform we want to bring to the UN as a tool with which to control the power of the United States, or other powers in the world," she said.
While the U.S. is critical of the U.N., especially of its handling of the food for oil program, it is increasingly seeking to delegate many responsibilities of Iraq's reconstruction to other countries as well as the U.N. The U.S. has been seeking a more pro-active stance from the U.N. but has at times been bitterly disappointed.
Washington balked as the U.N. refrained from calling the crisis in Darfur a "genocide" and was disappointed to see the world body dragging its feet even as a ceasefire took hold between Karthoum and the rebels in the south of the country.
Sometimes the world body just gets no respect. Sudan has rejected U.N. calls to try those responsible for crimes in Darfur in front of an international court. But Washington has refrained from calling for the resignation of Annan, even as the scandals follow each other in quick succession. The latest involves the U.N.'s weather office.
Meanwhile a House of Representatives panel investigating charges of corruption and mismanagement in the oil-for-food program announced that it was expanding its inquiry to include suspected abuses at other United Nations agencies. No less than five committees in the Republican-controlled Congress are investigating oil-for-food themselves.
A degree of attention the U.N. for once whish it did not have either in Washington or the international stage.

L'AUTRE CÔTÉ DE LA VAGUE?
Parmi les décombres du raz de marée du lendemain de Noel on a presque déterré l'espoir de la paix. En Indonésie comme au Sri Lanka, les dommages importants sur des terres contestées par des groupes séparatistes depuis plus de 20 ans et dont on avait enterré les efforts de paix depuis deux ans, ont donné lieu à une rare collaboration. Elle ne fait pas toujours l'unanimité, mais elle constitue un point de départ après des années d'affrontements sanguinaires qui ont, comme la catastrophe dont on tarde toujours à faire le décompte final des morts, fait des dizaines de milliers de victimes.
Au Sri Lanka, récemment visité par le premier ministre canadien qui a promis l'engagement à long terme d'Ottawa, pour la première fois en trente ans de conflit indépendantiste, les Tigres de libération de l'Eelam tamoul ont annoncé qu'ils mettaient provisoirement leur lutte entre parenthèses afin de concentrer les efforts sur l'aide aux sinistrés, environ 31 000 des plus de 280 000 qui ont péri le 26 décembre.
"La lutte sera toujours là, mais pour l'instant nous nous concentrons sur la catastrophe, a expliqué Anton Balasingham, le négociateur en chef des séparatistes tamouls. Nous souhaitons que cette tragédie humaine (...) ouvre de nouvelles perspectives (...) de sorte que nous puissions élaborer une solution collective pour résoudre les problèmes ethniques."
Presque en même temps, le gouvernement indonésien et les séparatistes d'Aceh annonçaient qu'ils se réunissaient en Finlande pour tenter de conclure une trêve dans la province ravagée par le séisme. Avec ses plus de 150 000 victimes l'Indonésie a été la plus touchée par le raz de marée, emportant parfois des villages entiers, le ressac laissant la province de Banda Aceh avec le qualificatif de zone sinistrée. Pourtant dans les deux cas on n'est pas prêt de crier victoire pour l'humanité.
La coopération au Sri Lanka n'empêche pas certains de critiquer Colombo de vouloir centraliser les efforts humanitaires et donner priorité aux régions où vivent en majorité des Célanais. Le gouvernement proteste qu'il dirige en fait la majorité de son aide vers les régions tamoules du nord, où les deux-tiers des victimes du Sri Lanka ont été perdues. Mais c'est tout de même déjà mieux qu'avant le 26 décembre, quand les pourparlers étaient à l'impasse et l'on craignait une recrudescence de la violence sanglante.
Les camps restent tout de même sur leur garde. Alors que la présidente Chandrika Kumaratunga déclarait que «La menace de conflit est plus éloignée qu'elle ne l'était le 25 décembre» elle a également déconseillé au secrétaire général des Nations unies, Kofi Annan, et Paul Martin de visiter les régions sous contrôle rebelle lors d'un passage récent au Sri Lanka. L'ONU accuse les rebelles d'avoir recruté des jeunes victimes du désastre pour poursuivre le combat.
En Indonésie les efforts de secours n'ont pas eu lieu sans échanges de tirs: un général annonçait récemment la mort de 200 séparatistes qui "troublaient la sécurité". Puis le fait que Jakarta souhaite le retrait des troupes étrangères participant aux secours laisse pour certains craindre une reprise des opérations militaires à Banda Aceh, notamment après les accusations de non-respect d'une trêve récente. La population locale a rapidement manifesté contre cette déclaration, plusieurs ayant même accueilli des troupes américaines avec les bras ouverts.
La reprise du dialogue constitue par conséquent un important point de départ pour apporter la paix dans l'Aceh, où les rebelles accusent le pouvoir de piller la province riche en ressources naturelles. Les pourparlers ont été jugés "constructifs" et en préparent d'autres dans l'avenir.
Un mois après la vague dévastatrice, ces minces espoirs de paix se distinguent nettement du statu-quo qui règne dans une autre région déchirée par des conflits sectaires, mais laissée intouchée par le tsunami. Au sud de la Thailande où les forces gouvernementales combattent des groupes islamiques radicaux, les affrontements se poursuivent sans trêve, tandis que Bangkok prévoit de dépêcher une division toute fraîche de 10 000 troupes.

THE CONTESTED VOTE IN IRAQ
The votes aren't even in that Iraq's election is being contested. As the deadline for the Jan. 30 vote nears, growing violence in Iraq is adding pressure on authorities to postpone the first elections of the post-Saddam era.
Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is in fact playing down widespread reports that an overwhelming majority of his own cabinet favors delaying the elections, something he and U.S. president George W. Bush have insisted should not happen. "The government is committed to holding the elections on schedule," Allawi said. "We know some Iraqis fear voting, but we have to overcome those fears."
Others have proposed postponing the vote in some areas where violence has been rampant. Last week a series of attacks killed tens of Iraqis including the governor of Baghdad and officials associated with the preparation of the election as well as security forces.
Over the holidays there was such concern over the level of violence that election experts meeting in Ottawa to set up a mission to monitor the vote agreed they would base their operations largely outside Iraq, in nearby Jordan. Canadian chief electoral officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, who spearheads the multi-country effort, was adamant that decision would not undermine efforts to monitor the vote.
A day before the Ottawa announcement three electoral workers were killed in Iraq. Kingsley said the International Mission for Iraqi elections will at first "minimise the number of people in Iraq" insisting that mission officials eventually going to Iraq would be sent to areas that are considered safe. "We will be exceedingly careful," he said. "We will not expose members of the team to a risky enterprise."
At the time Bush called the elections "the beginning of a process" and did not deny the elections could encounter violence. "I certainly don't expect the process to be trouble-free," Bush said. As Allawi reaffirmed his commitment to holding nationwide elections on schedule, suicide bombers struck three separate targets, killing some 20 Iraqis, most of them police officers.
Allawi insists those who were calling for a delay of the vote have been unclear about what a postponement might accomplish since few including himself believe that the insurgency will be contained in the near future. "I am not saying that the terrorist operations will come to an end soon; they will continue," he said.
Insurgents were especially targeting Iraqis taking jobs with the fledgling security forces, which usually draws the less fortunate in society. In the north meanwhile American forces gathered around the city of Mosul, which had been overtaken by insurgents, leading some to believe in a massive military offensive ahead of the election.
Iraqi election officials realising they will have trouble bringing out the vote there and in other violent areas announced they were relaxing registration rules to allow voters to register on election day. Registration procedures as well as procedures to file complaints and the training of election workers are just some of the core organisational electoral matters the Canadian-led mission will monitor.
Needless to say, security has been a major factor in the preparation of the vote. It has been such a concern that most electoral material could be shipped only in the days leading up to election time, as organizers want to limit exposure to Iraq's instability.
Further fueling the concerns Iraq's intelligence chief said this week that as many as 30,000 well-trained terrorists are actively operating throughout Iraq at the behest of former regime leaders based in Syria. Maj.-Gen. Mohammed Abdullah al-Shahwani said the men, who are well-organized and trained, include former Baath party members, Islamic militant groups and unemployed former army members. "We officially call them terrorists," he told a London-based Arab newspaper.
One U.S. general warned of massive attacks during the election. A major problem surrounding the vote is bringing Sunni Arabs and their leaders into the election process, which could otherwise be seen as illegitimate. Several leading Sunni clerics have demanded a boycott of the vote, while the leading Sunni party in Iraq pulled out of the race because of the poor security situation. That has led some officials to suggest giving more time to persuade the Sunnis to join the political process.
Syria meanwhile denied accusations that terrorists are receiving support from Damascus and freely crossing the border. Iraq also accused Iran of allowing the insurgents to cross into Iraqi territory. Similar accusation by Jordan led Tehran to boycott a meeting Amman is hosting to rally support for elections among Iraq's neighbors. But rallying support within Iraq should be a challenge in itself.

PALESTINE: LA VICTOIRE FACILE
A l'approche des élections en Palestine qui doivent assurer la succession de Yasser Arafat les signes étaient prometteurs. Israël faisait de son mieux afin de retirer la présence explosive de certains colons des territoires tandis que le camp palestinien laissait entrevoir un avenir de dialogue plutôt que de militantisme.
C'est le cas de le dire, un vent nouveau soufflait sur les relations israélo-palestiniennes. Mais certains incidents lors de la campagne sont venus rappeler les tensions latentes de ce conflit de longue date.
Grand favori de l'élection présidentielle palestinienne, le chef de l'OLP Mahmoud Abbas a qualifié Israël d' "ennemi sioniste" après la mort de sept Palestiniens tués par l'armée israélienne dans la bande de Gaza. La déclaration aurait pu aussi bien sortir des lèvres du personnage dont Abbas est le successeur, ce dernier considéré persona non-grata à l'extérieur de son bunker sur ses vieux jours.
Les Etats-Unis n'ont pas apprécié la remarque du favori. "Cela n'est certainement pas utile, et ne convient pas pour travailler à améliorer les relations" entre les deux camps, a-t-on affirmé. "Nous trouvons un tel langage dérangeant, et pensons qu'il n'a pas sa place dans un processus de reprise de dialogue et de confiance entre Israéliens et Palestiniens", a déclaré un porte-parole du département d'Etat.
Jusqu'alors Abbas avait plutôt l'habitude de la prudence et du pragmatisme. Quelques jours plus tôt il avait appelé à l'arrêt des tirs contre Israël et à une "démilitarisation" de l'Intifada, puisqu' "il est impossible de libérer la Palestine par les armes". Mais son appel à la retenue n'a pas toujours été bien reçu.
Les trois principales organisations extrémistes palestiniennes ont lancé des attaques contre Israël la semaine dernière, tuant douze soldats israéliens par tir de roquette. Le Hamas a revendiqué l'attaque, présentée à titre de représaille après la mort de sept Palestiniens tués par un obus israélien la veille, un geste qui annonce la triste poursuite des échanges de tirs entre l'armée israélienne et les militants palestiniens. Un échange alimenté en partie par la rhétorique de la campagne.
Plus tôt une embuscade avait été revendiquée par le Djihad islamique et les Brigades des martyrs d'Al Aksa, qui, avec le Hamas, défient Abbas. Un porte-parole du Hamas estime que les appels à la retenue de ce dernier "ont choqué le peuple palestinien et elles vont à l'encontre du consensus (...) La résistance continuera jusqu'à la fin de l'occupation."
Ironiquement, deux facteurs de progrès dans la reprise du dialogue, l'imminence de l'élection présidentielle palestinienne et la mise en oeuvre par Israël de son plan de retrait de Gaza, entraînent une escalade des violences dans ce territoire. Voilà qui remet en cause les chances de rapprochement, estime Ariel Sharon. "Si les Palestiniens continuent ce qu'ils sont en train de faire, je pense qu'ils ne pourront atteindre aucun objectif national".
Remporter les élections était ce qu'il y avait de moins dur quand on pense aux obstacles à la paix. Les sondages à la sortie des urnes lui donnant plus de 65% des voix, Abbas s'est proclamé gagnant le jour même du vote et a dédié sa victoire à Arafat. Malgré des irrégularités les observateurs ont déclaré l'exercice généralement dans les normes.
Lors de la campagne Abbas a répété qu'il poursuivrait les objectifs fixés par Arafat sur la création d'un Etat palestinien dans l'ensemble de la Cisjordanie et de la bande de Gaza avec Jérusalem-Est pour capitale, une question sur laquelle Israël se veut intraitable. Car Israël refuse d'abandonner Jérusalem-Est et entend également bien conserver des colonies en Cisjordanie.
Cependant Abbas reste une personne avec qui Sharon se dit prêt à dialoguer, le premier pas sur la longue route de la pacification éventuelle de la région. Après une campagne aux symboles parfois forts, Abbas prétend voir en Sharon un "partenaire pour la paix". Si la campagne a rendue une chose claire, c'est que certains Palestiniens semblent prêts à tourner la page.
En effet alors que le visage sérieux du nouveau président s'affiche partout, deux mois après la mort du père du mouvement palestinien moderne, les images d'Arafat, si récemment omniprésentes, se font déjà plutôt rares.

THEN, TIDES OF SUPPORT
After the killer tsunami, tides of tears but also waves of support. By the time an emergency meeting was organized in Indonesia in the aftermath of the tidal-wave tragedy, the country hardest-hit by the Dec. 26 disaster, global government pledges topped $3 billion dollars while private donations added millions more. Some aid organizations even considered they had enough to meet all their immediate needs.
In Canada the government promised to match private funds, which quickly swelled near the $80 millions in aid pledged by Ottawa. The U.N. meanwhile, which considered the response to the holiday-time disaster "unprecedented", only hoped the promises of millions would be kept.

Officials recalled this had not always been the case after earlier disasters. Following the devastating earthquake in Bam, Iran, agencies only received a fraction of the hundreds of millions pledged by countries. "If we go by past history, yes, I do have concerns," Secretary-general Kofi Annan told a news conference. At the Jakarta meeting Annan asked donors to convert $1 bil. of pledges into immediate emergency aid cash.

Canada was initially the only donor to also declare a unilateral moratorium on debt repayments, but gradually G-7 countries warmed up to the idea and followed suit. Pledges ballooned to around $5 billion, as Australia's rose above the early high mark set by Japan. Britain also promised to give more.

Canada seemed to follow the trend to higher pledges and greater commitment. Sending the emergency DART military unit to Sri Lanka has a price tag of $20 million alone, and the moratorium will amount to over $100 million this year. The RCMP also sent a forensic team to help identify the bodies. In addition Ottawa says there's more cash to come. "We're going to do more than $80 million," Martin told a news conference in Montreal. "It could increase a lot more. It's going to go up. It's clear the needs are there."

The increased funding will be announced Jan. 11 when Canada participates in a United Nations meeting in Geneva designed to address the region's long-term needs. The overwhelming nature of the response suggested most countries would do good on their promises and the U.N. hoped this would set new standards to responses to humanitarian crises, noting countries had not been as forthcoming in Sudan or Congo.

Not only good things came from the outpouring however as scam artists quickly reacted to the disaster in their own michievous way, seeking to benefit from donors' generosity. Some agencies meanwhile feared the flood of support going to Asia would hit donations for other parts of the world and urged governments not to forget their other commitments.

But observers were generally surprised to note holiday shoppers who had maxed their credit cards over the holidays were still ready to open their wallets to help those in need. Perhaps this usually festive period of the year left time for reflection on things other than material goods. A slow news cycle during the holidays also made the boxing day disaster an opportunity for media outlets to give the disaster massive coverage, one which did not stop as the countries most affected started picking up the pieces.

As the Jakarta conference got underway, attended by outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell, the U.S. said it was dismantling its so-called coalition of aiding countries and leaving the UN in charge of managing the tsunami relief operations. Aid efforts were initially hampered by lack of infrastructures, coordination, bureaucracy and occasional storms.

Banda Aceh's heavily-used air-strip was temporarily blocked after a plane bringing much-needed aid hit livestock upon landing. Slowly aid started trickling into the most remote areas, but as isolated regions were starting to be accessible, relief agencies feared more fatalities would be added to an already staggering death toll now reaching 150,000 dead or missing. The worse-case scenarios considered that the total could even double.

At the Jakarta conference, foreign minister Pierre Pettigrew said Canada was in it for the long haul. "We know this is an effort that will take months, even years, to complete and that the road ahead is a challenging one," he said. "The message our Prime Minister has asked me to convey to you today is that Canada will be there as a full partner for as long as it takes." On Saturday Canada held a national day of mourning and the CBC scheduled a televised benefit concert it invited all private broadcasters to pick up.

With aid and money pouring in, relief was not without difficulty on the ground. As a strong aftershock measuring over 6 on the richter scale rattled the region, humanitarian organizations trying to bring aid to the destitute complained the Indonesian military was hampering efforts in Aceh province. A regional organization blamed it of denying assistance and even abusing some survivors. The Bangkok-based Asia Forum listed a host of abuses and incompetence in managing aid distribution, and demanded that the military allow free flow of food, water and medical assistance in the devastated region at the northern end of the island of Sumatra.

The group alleged that soldiers were denying aid to survivors who were unable to present all of the proper identification documents, in spite of massive destruction to their homes and possessions. It also said that local non-governmental organizations were being prevented from distributed their own aid, while military-held food, water, clothing and medicines were stockpiled in airports without efficient delivery. But other reports blamed disruptions on separatist rebels the army has been trying to defeat in Aceh.

In the rush to aid survivors islamic groups, some with known ties to terrorists, volunteered their help while seeking new recruits. In Sri Lanka tensions rose anew between separatist rebels and the government, hampering the delivery of much-needed aid.

Health professionals are warning that a new wave of deaths may follow unless medicine is rushed to some centers as the wounded get sicker from lack of immediate treatment. Field medical workers have had to resort to a greater amount of amputations as the cases of infection have grown, a result of the lack of sanitation and medicine in the aftermath of the disaster which has left communities swamped with sea water laced with waste. The race against time had just barely turned another corner.