Serbia and Kosovo reached a potentially historic agreement on Friday to normalize relations between the Balkan neighbors, end years of acrimony and put them both on a solid path to European Union membership.
The tentative deal culminated months of tense negotiations and showed determination of both Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, EU negotiator Catherine Ashton said, AP reported.
“What we are seeing is a step away from the past and for both of them a step closer to Europe,” Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said.
In what would be an extraordinary change, the deal appeared to recognize the authority of the Kosovo government over the north of the country, which is inhabited predominantly by ethnic Serbs. But Dacic appeared to indicate there was a chance the deal could still come unstuck, saying Serbia’s top leadership would decide whether to accept or reject the tentative agreement “in the next few days.”
Details of the agreement were scant, but Dacic said it was “better than any other we were offered in the past.”
Kosovo, a former province of Serbia, declared independence in 2008. Over the years, Belgrade has said it would never recognize the sovereignty of Kosovo, which is considered by Serbia’s nationalists to be the cradle of the country’s medieval statehood and religion.
Kosovo has been recognized by more than 90 countries including the US and 22 of the EU’s 27 members. Because of a blockade by Serbian allies Russia and China in the Security Council, Kosovo is not a UN member.
But UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed “the landmark agreement between Belgrade and Pristina,” according to a statement from his office.
“He strongly encourages the parties to conclude this historic process and take concrete measures for a faithful implementation of the agreement,” the statement added. “The United Nations stands ready to assist the parties in this endeavor.”
Serbia relinquished control of most of Kosovo in 1999 when NATO chased its troops out of the region after a three-month bombing campaign. Ending the partition of Kosovo between the Albanian majority and the Serb-controlled north--about a fifth of the country--is a key condition of Serbia’s further progress toward EU membership.
At Least 156 Dead in China Quake
A strong 6.6 magnitude earthquake hit a remote, mostly rural and mountainous area of southwestern China’s Sichuan province on Saturday, killing at least 156 people and injuring about 5,500 close to where a big quake killed almost 70,000 people in 2008.
The earthquake occurred at 8.02 a.m. (0002 GMT) in Lushan county near Ya’an city and the epicenter had a depth of 12 km (7.5 miles), the US Geological Survey said, Reuters reported.
The quake was felt by residents in neighboring provinces and in the provincial capital of Chengdu, causing many people to rush out of buildings, according to accounts on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo micro blogging service.
President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang said all efforts must be put into rescuing victims to limit the death toll.
Li arrived in Chengdu and was on his way to the disaster zone by helicopter, state media said.
“The current most urgent issue is grasping the first 24 hours since the quake’s occurrence, the golden time for saving lives,” Xinhua news agency quoted Li as saying.
Xinhua said 6,000 troops were heading to the area to help with rescue efforts. State television CCTV said only emergency vehicles were being allowed into Ya’an, though Chengdu airport had reopened.
Most of the deaths were concentrated in Lushan, where water and electricity were cut off. Pictures on Chinese news sites showed toppled buildings and people in bloodied bandages being treated in tents outside the hospital, which appeared only lightly damaged.
Rescuers in Lushan had pulled 32 survivors out of rubble, Xinhua said. In villages closest to the epicenter, almost all low rise houses and buildings had collapsed.
Numerous aftershocks jolted the area, the largest of which was magnitude 5.1.
Sichuan is one of the four major natural-gas-producing provinces in China, and its output accounts for about 14 percent of the nation’s total.
Sinopec Group, Asia’s largest oil refiner, said its huge Puguang gas field was unaffected.
The US Geological Survey initially put the magnitude at 7, but later revised it down.
Maduro Sworn in as President
Nicolas Maduro was sworn in as president of Venezuela on Friday, replacing the late Hugo Chavez and calling for dialogue with the opposition to build a better country “for everyone, by everyone.”
To cheers in the National Assembly, Maduro dedicated his oath of office to “the eternal memory of the supreme commander” Chavez, who dominated this oil-rich South American country for 14 years until dying from cancer in March, AFP reported.
Maduro, 50, said he wanted to begin his presidency “with a call to all Venezuelan men and women to continue to build a better fatherland of peace, an inclusive fatherland for everyone, by everyone.”
And he urged the opposition to “converse in the different settings where conversations can be held. I am ready to converse even with the devil.”
But the new president also resumed attacks on the opposition, highlighting what has been a week of soaring political tensions since he was declared the winner of Sunday’s snap elections by a narrow margin of 1.8 percentage points.
Watching the ceremony was a packed assembly with foreign leaders, lawmakers and other dignitaries in attendance.
Close allies Presidents Raul Castro of Cuba and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran were in the audience, along with the leaders of Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and neighboring Colombia.
Maduro had met the night before in Lima with regional leaders who extended their congratulations to the new government and urged all sides in the bitterly contested elections to accept “the official results”.
The endorsement came just hours after Venezuelan election authorities announced they would conduct an expanded audit of Sunday’s ballot returns in response to opposition demands for a full recount.
Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles immediately accepted, congratulating his followers on their “struggle for the truth”.
Violent post-election protests left eight people dead and dozens hurt, igniting a crisis as Maduro and Capriles traded fiery accusations over who was to blame.
For Maduro, the election was the culmination of a political career that took him from one-time bus driver and union organizer to Chavez’s handpicked successor.
“I am the first post-Chavez president in history,” Maduro said on the eve of his swearing-in. The new first lady, Cilia Flores, is a heavyweight in her own right in the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela.
But Maduro also lost the votes of hundreds of thousands of Chavez supporters to Capriles, a 40-year-old state governor who lost to the comandante in October by an 11-point margin.
The weak performance suggested Maduro has yet to step out of Chavez’s giant shadow with a mandate of his own.
As Maduro entered the National Assembly, supporters showered him with cheers of “Chavez lives, the struggle continues.”
Later at an esplanade dedicated to the country’s founders, Venezuelan military leaders pledged their loyalty to Chavez’s socialist revolution and their new commander-in-chief.
Honor guards and military units paraded past him in pouring rain as he watched from a covered reviewing stand.
Second Boston Bombing Suspect in Custody
From Page 1
They had said they did not know where the fugitive was, but would still lift a “shelter in place” order anyway.
As night fell again, the Tsarnaevs had become a new lesson in the awful magnifying power of terrorism. Two unremarkable brothers, armed with low-tech bombs and no apparent escape plan, had allegedly killed four people, injured more than 170, and then held one of America’s great cities in terror for a full day.
While law enforcement officers continued to look for Tsarnaev, investigators in Washington and elsewhere began seeking to understand what had turned them to violence.
The Tsarnaev brothers are of Chechen heritage. Both were born in the Caucusus region, a cauldron fought over by Chechen separatists, Russian security forces, extremists and organized crime. They had emigrated legally, and lived for years in the Boston area, where their father, Anzor, was an auto mechanic.
In the past, both men had embraced American passions, according to friends and neighbors. Tamerlan, 26, was an accomplished boxer, with a wife and child. Dzhokhar was a wrestler at Cambridge’s public high school, who went on to attend the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.
On Thursday evening, authorities released photos of two men spotted carrying backpacks near the Marathon’s finish line. These were apparently the Tsarnaevs, though authorities did not say that at the time--and, perhaps, did not know it at all.
Their targets, it turned out, had not fled the city or the country. A few hours later, they began a violent spree just across the Charles River in Cambridge.
India Arrests Suspect for Rape of 5-Year-Old Girl
Hundreds of angry protesters gathered outside the headquarters of Delhi police on Saturday after a five year-old girl was allegedly raped and tortured, reviving memories of a brutal December assault on a woman that shook the country.
Police arrested a man they accuse of the attack from the eastern state of Bihar, and he was being brought to Delhi for interrogation. Doctors say the girl suffered severe injuries and bruising all over her body including her neck and genitalia, Reuters reported.
Protests that began on Friday grew more intense after video footage showed a policeman slapping a woman protester, and following reports investigators offered the victim’s family 2,000 rupees not to file a case.
The assault on the girl revived memories of the gang rape by five adult men and a teenaged boy of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student on a bus on December 16 in New Delhi.
That woman died of her injuries in a Singapore hospital. The case caused an outpouring of anger in Delhi. While statistically India does not have the world’s highest incidence of rape, the frequency and apparent increase in brutal crimes has become a major political issue in the nation of 1.2 billion a year before elections.
On Saturday, a group of men and women kicked and pushed yellow metal barricades at the gates of the police station in an attempt to break through.
The girl was “conscious and alert” and her condition stable, but her injuries are infected and so severe she may need corrective surgery, an official of the state-run All India Institute of Medical Sciences hospital told reporters.
Police identified the accused as a 22-year-old called Manoj, arrested late on Friday in Bihar where he had fled after leaving the girl for dead in an apartment in the same Delhi building the family lives in.
Paraguayans to Vote In Presidential Election
Paraguayans head to the polls on Sunday to choose a new president after a venomously fought campaign marred by slander and back stabbing.
Front-runners Horacio Cartes, 56, of the Colorado Party, and Efraín Alegre, 50, of the ruling Liberal Party, both accuse each other of corruption.
The vote will be the first since the controversial ousting of leftist President Fernando Lugo last June, largely over his handling of deadly clashes over land rights. Lugo’s impeachment resulted in diplomatic sanctions against Paraguay for what many regional leaders called a “parliamentary coup”.
The Colorado candidate, one of the richest men in the country and owner of 25 companies, has been accused of everything from trafficking in drugs and contraband cigarettes to money laundering--charges his party has denied.
Although Cartes’ lead has narrowed over the last few days, the most recent survey from IPA pollsters gave the businessman 47.6 percent of the vote, with Alegre trailing at 32.5 percent.
The Liberal candidate has been accused of collecting campaign funds from local businessmen on a recent trip to Uruguay, where he also met President José Mujica. Alegre is also embroiled in a scandal involving a land purchase that has caused one head to roll.
Parliamentary President Jorge Oviedo Matto resigned earlier in the week after it was revealed that the Liberal government bought land owned by his father days before forming an alliance with the National Union of Ethical Citizens, the party of his father. Commentators and opponents have called the purchase a cynical move to secure the pact and help narrow the gap with the Colorados.
Italian lawmakers once again failed to elect a new president for after a fifth round of voting in Parliament.