UN experts start destroying Syrian chemical weapons
Special to the tribune
Damascus, October 6
The source in the international mission said the experts would verify details of the arsenal turned over by the Syrian government and start the process of destroying the weapons and production facilities. The team faces the massive task of destroying an estimated 1,000 tonnes of the nerve agent sarin, mustard gas and other banned arms at dozens of sites in Syria by mid-2014 in line with the UN resolution.
As the operation got underway, President Bashar al-Assad admitted in an interview with Germany's Spiegel news magazine that his government made "mistakes" in the country's brutal civil conflict. But he denied again his forces used chemical weapons in an August 21 attack that eventually led to the UN resolution requiring Syria turn over it arsenal of the banned weapons.
The team of disarmament experts from the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) based in The Hague arrived in Damascus on Tuesday.
An official in the joint mission said today that members of the team "have left for a site where they are beginning verification and destruction." "Today is the first day of destruction, in which heavy vehicles are going to run over and thus destroy missile warheads, aerial chemical bombs and mobile and static mixing and filling units," he said.
An OPCW official said earlier this week that all "expedient methods" would be used to render Syria's production facilities unusable. — PTI
‘Geneva talks not certain’
Washington, October 6
US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said the decision to recall the Pentagon employees was based on an interpretation of the Pay Our Military Act. A budget row over President Barack Obama's showpiece 'Obamacare' healthcare reform law between Republicans and Democrats has forced the closure of federal services since Tuesday.
But both sides have now voted to approve back-pay for the 800,000 federal workers sent home without salaries.
In a rare moment of bipartisan co-operation, the House of Representatives yesterday approved by 407-0 a bill to pay the federal workers once the shutdown ends.
But there is still no sign of any deal on the federal budget or any measure to raise the nation's $ 16.7 trillion debt ceiling.
Neither the House nor the Senate plans to meet again until tomorrow afternoon, meaning the shutdown will have lasted at least seven days.
The shutdown has left federal employees on unpaid leave and closed national parks, tourist sites, official websites, office buildings, and more establishments.
Congress must act by October 17 in order to avoid a debt default by the US government. The government will run out of cash on that day for the first time in US history unless its debt ceiling is raised.
Republicans who control the House of Representatives have refused to approve the budget, saying they would only do so if the healthcare programme was delayed or stripped of funding. — PTI
Shyam Bhatia in London
Pakistani teenage girl Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban, has been invited to Buckingham Palace in London as a guest of Queen Elizabeth-II, fuelling the speculations further that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize may be awarded to her.
The invitation from the British monarch is a symbol of esteem in which Malala is held by the rest of the world for daring to stand up to the Taliban.
The 15-year-old was on her way to school last year in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, when a masked gunman boarded the bus, asked for her by name and shot in her left eye.
Her crime was that she had challengeed the Taliban on popular Pakistani television programmes and also participated in an American documentary film demanding the right to an education.
In her newly published autobiography, serialised in London's Sunday Times, Malala describes how she felt when she woke up in a hospital in England. “My head was aching so much that even the injections they gave me couldn’t stop the pain. My left ear kept bleeding and I could feel that the left side of my face wasn’t working properly.”
She adds, “People have prayed to God to spare me and I was spared for a reason-to use my life for helping people.” Following her shooting, Malala’s life was saved after emergency surgery at a Pakistani military hospital. She also received several subsequent months of specialist care in a British hospital in Birmingham to which she was air lifted from Pakistan.
Despite severe injuries she suffered, including damaged hearing and a completely severed facial nerve, British doctors have been optimistic about Malala's recovery and her chances of leading as near to normal a life in the future.
Earlier this year, the medical director of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, Dr David Rosser, commented, “Malala is a strong young woman and has worked hard with the people caring for her to make excellent progress in her recovery.”
Last July she addressed the United Nations in New York, declaring, 'one child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution." Her UN speech and the world wide attention it attracted forced a senior Pakistan Taliban commander, Adnan Rasheed, to justify the attack on her. "Taliban believe that you were intentionally writing against them and running a smear campaign to malign their efforts to establish an Islamic system in Swat and your writings were provocative", Rashee wrote in his internationally distributed letter addressed to Malala.
"You have said in your speech…. that pen is mightier than sword, so they attacked you for your sword, not for your books or school.'
Rasheed ends his letter by telling Malala, "I advise you to come back home, adopt the Islamic and Pashtun culture, join any female Islamic madrassa near your home town, study and learn the book of Allah, use your pen for Islam and plight of Muslim ummah and reveal the conspiracy of tiny elite who want to enslave the whole humanity for their evil agendas in the name of new world order."
Hot favourite for Peace
The winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize will be revealed on Friday. As per the International Peace Research Institute, Malala is the hot favourite to win. “The award to Malala will put children and education on the peace agenda," a spokeswoman of
the institute said.
The winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize will be revealed on Friday. As per the International Peace Research Institute, Malala is the hot favourite to win. “The award to Malala will put children and education on the peace agenda," a spokeswoman of the institute said.
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