SHAFAQNA-- Serbia's nationalist President Tomislav Nikolic has personally apologised for the first time for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslims, but stopped short of calling it genocide.
"I kneel and ask for forgiveness for Serbia for the crime committed in Srebrenica," Nikolic said on Thursday in an interview to be aired on Bosnian national television parts of which have been released on You Tube.
"I apologise for the crimes committed by any individual in the name of our state and our people," he said in the interview.
Nikolic's office confirmed to AFP news agency the authenticity of the statement.
Al Jazeera's Aljosa Milenkovic, reporting from Belgrade, said: "May be it is sounding like a small political earthquake here in Balkans as President Nikolic is apologising for crimes committed by the Serbs during the 1990s violent breakup of Yugoslavia."
"But when one reads more into the interview he still did not recognise what happened at Srebrenica as genocide."
Thousands of Bosnians, mostly Muslims, were killed by Serb soldiers during the Balkan War between 1992 and 1996.
After being elected last May, Nikolic caused a stir in the region by refusing to acknowledge that the massacre in the Bosnian enclave, was a genocide, despite it being ruled as such by two international courts.
Nikolic at the time said "there was no genocide in Srebrenica".
War crimes trial
Until five years ago Nikolic was a top official of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party, which has denied that Serb forces committed crimes during the Balkans wars.
Its leader Vojislav Seselj is currently on trial for war crimes before The Hague-based UN International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
While this marks Nikolic's first apology on Srebrenica, Serbia has in the past expressed regret over the deaths.
In 2010, the Serbian parliament passed an historic declaration condemning the Srebrenica massacre in a gesture ending years of denial by Serbian politicians about the scale of the killings, but Nikolic at the time did not support the move.
Nikolic's predecessor Boris Tadic also apologised to Srebrenica victims during a commemoration event in 2005.
Both the ICTY and the United Nations' highest court, the International Court of Justice, have found that the Srebrenica massacre was a genocide.
Bosnian Serb wartime political and military leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic are currently on trial on genocide charges before the ICTY for their role in the massacre.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) Giorgio Napolitano has put forward his candidacy for another term as Italy's president after the main political parties appealed for him to help resolve a deepening crisis.
The announcement came after politicians again failed to elect a new head of state in their fifth round of voting on Saturday, with the largest share of ballots left blank in a stalling tactic by parties.
"I consider it necessary to offer my availability," Napolitano said in a statement after no candidate won a majority of votes in the joint session of parliament.
Stefano Rodota, an academic and human rights advocate who is the candidate for former comic Beppe Grillo's left-wing Five Star Movement, received the highest number of votes with 210 of the required 504 ballots.
The deepening crisis comes after politicians from the main parties said they would either not participate or would cast empty ballots earlier on Saturday, after Pier Luigi Bersani, the leader of the Democratic Party (PD) announced he would resign once a new head of state was elected.
The PD has been in turmoil after both candidates proposed by Bersani, former trade unionist Franco Marini and then former European Commission president Romano Prodi failed to be elected in voting on Thursday and Friday.
A second round of voting will be held in parliament later on Saturday.
Bersani had backed former premier Prodi, who fell well short of getting enough support in voting on Friday. As voting takes place in secret, deputies are not obliged to toe a party line.
Until the vote, former European Commission chief Prodi had been considered the frontrunner for the job, but the right refused point-blank to support a politician who has twice inflicted election defeats on centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi.
Leftist voters numbering 101 also opposed him, leaving him with just 395 votes - well short of the 504 needed to win.
Bersani's selection of Prodi had marked a dramatic about-turn, after he failed on Thursday to impose 80-year-old former Senate speaker Franco Marini on the centre-left as presidential candidate under the terms of a deal with Berlusconi.
"He accepted his responsibility after the disgrace of what happened," Paolo Gentiloni, a senior PD parliamentary deputy said after Bersani's announcement that he would resign following the election of the new president.
The political impasse caused by February's inconclusive general election has stoked concern about stability in the recession-hit country, the eurozone's third largest economy.
In comments to the ANSA news agency, Bersani acknowledged that his party alone could not get a candidate voted in.
The political in-fighting has dimmed hopes that the deadlock will be broken any time soon.
The disarray in the centre-left, which has the most seats in parliament, could make a snap election in the summer more likely in a bid to end the impasse, but there is no clarity about the next moves after weeks of chaos.
Berlusconi, welcoming the news that Bersani was stepping down, said his party would also abstain from Saturday morning's vote if the left and the right could not agree on a candidate.
The presidency, an office elected by parliamentarians and regional representatives, is a largely ceremonial position, but is important at times of political instability like the present, when the president plays a major role in forming a government.
Napolitano had been unable to find a way out of the crisis with his powers restricted at the end of his mandate.
In the final months of his mandate Napolitano was constitutionally prevented from dissolving parliament and calling fresh elections.
Without a new government, efforts to pull the eurozone's third-largest economy out of recession and pass meaningful reforms will remain blocked, while rising unemployment and declining living standards feed an increasingly bitter popular mood.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) Bolivia’s President Evo Morales says the United States is planning to stage a coup in Venezuela, condemning Washington’s questioning of the Venezuelan presidential election results as interference.
In a press conference on Tuesday, the Bolivian president said that the US is getting ready for a coup d’état in Venezuela.
He also rejected the White House’s moral authority to question electoral results worldwide, after Washington demanded Caracas to hold a full vote recount.
“I am certain that behind those remarks, the United States is preparing a coup d’état in Venezuela,” said Morales.
“I would like to express that this is a flagrant US interference in Venezuela’s democracy, as neither that spokesperson nor the US government has moral authority to question electoral results in any Latin American country or around the world.”
Morales also confirmed that he would attend Nicolas Maduro’s inauguration ceremony next Friday as a sign of support to the president-elect.
Since the electoral authority declared Maduro the winner, the opposition has staged several violent protests, leaving at least seven people dead and over 60 others injured.
Defeated Venezuelan presidential candidate Henrique Capriles cancelled a planned protest march for Wednesday after Maduro vowed he would not allow the rally to go ahead.
Maduro won the Sunday’s presidential election by 50.8 percent of the votes against the opposition leader’s 49 percent.
On March 8, Maduro became Venezuela’s acting president, following the death of late President Hugo Chavez, who lost a two-year-long battle with cancer on March 5.
Maduro has promised to continue the socialist policies of the former leader.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) Myanmar's president says his country needs to learn from the violence and instability that has wracked the country over the last two years if it is to overcome the challenge of democratising the nation.
Thein Sein spoke on Sunday to mark the start a day earlier of a traditional New Year holiday that is celebrated across Southeast Asia with friendly water fights.
"Our society has overcome many difficulties and challenges together so we can emerge as a society in which multiple races and religions coexist harmoniously, while still preserving our own customs and traditions," he said in a televised speech.
Sein, a former general, took office two years ago after Myanmar's long ruling junta stepped down.
He has led a transition towards democratic rule since then, but the country has been plagued by a war with ethnic Kachin rebels in the north, sectarian violence in western Rakhine state, and anti-Muslim clashes in central Myanmar last month.
Buddhist-Muslim clashes in Rakhine last year left at least 180 people dead, mostly minority Muslim Rohingya.
The riots in March left 43 people dead, thousands displaced and saw homes and mosques destroyed.
Three people including a gold shop owner were last jailed for 14 years in connection with the riots that began in the town of Meiktila in central Myanmar on March 20.
Radical monks have been linked to the subsequent unrest, which observers said appeared to be well organised.
Rights groups have accused security forces of standing by while the attacks took place.
Myanmar's efforts at democratisation had been hampered by "black spots such as disunity, conflict and instability," Sein said.
Political changes should be targetted with "patience, tolerance and persistence", he urged citizens.
The situation has calmed since Thein Sein on March 28 vowed a tough response against those behind the violence.
Myanmar's New Year, known as the Thingyan, is a hugely popular mass celebration in which people throw water at each other to symbolise the washing away of the previous year's bad deeds.
Festivities, increasingly raucous as the country opens to the world, have been marred by bloodshed in the past, with a series of blasts in 2010 that left 10 people dead and about 170 wounded.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has ordered the removal of top security officials from government, in a major shake-up directed at allies of ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Hadi removed Brigadier General Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh as head of the elite Republican Guard, appointing him ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, the country's state-run television reported on Wednesday. The military commander is a son of the former president.
General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, commander of the First Armoured Division and a rival of Ahmed Saleh, was named presidential adviser for military affairs.
In a separate statement sent to Al Jazeera, Yemen's embassy in Washington, DC, said Hadi's order also covered two nephews of the former president, who had served in the Presidential Guard and the intelligence service.
Brigadier Tariq Mohammed Abdullah Saleh was named defence attaché to Germany, while Colonel Ammar Mohammed Abdullah Saleh was appointed to a similar post in Ethiopia.
Dozens of military officials were named in the statement provided to Al Jazeera.
Former president Saleh, who stepped down in early 2012 after more than a year of protests against his rule, placed relatives and loyalists in top military and government posts over his 33-year rule.
The Saleh appointees have been accused of obstructing the US-backed government as it tries to reform and fight an active al-Qaeda branch in the impoverished Arab nation.
Retired general Mohammed Sarei Shaye said the orders "effectively ended the divisions" in the army and put all forces under the president's control.
"It is a strike by a master," Shaye said. "It uprooted all centres of power in the army."
Political commentator Abdel-Bari Taher said the orders made Hadi "truly the president and sole decision maker of the army".
Celebrations in Sanaa
Gulf neighbours and Western nations fear Saleh's continuing influence, not least through his powerful son, could tip a delicate political transition into chaos.
Dozens of youths gathered outside Hadi's home in the capital, Sanaa, to show support for the decisions.
"March, O Hadi, we are behind you until we achieve change," they chanted.
Fireworks went off in Sanaa and in Yemen's second largest city, Taiz, after the announcement.
The decisions were announced while Saleh was in neighbouring Saudi Arabia for medical treatment. He has been under international pressure to leave the country.
Saleh's family-owned TV channel Yemen el-Yowm reported on Wednesday that the president's son "welcomes the decision" and "does not oppose it".
Last December, Hadi ordered similar overhauls of the country's defence ministry, including the abolition of the Republican Guard.
In March, Hadi also launched a conference of national reconciliation, which is expected to produce a draft of a new constitution.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) Kenya swore in its youngest-ever president Tuesday before a massive crowd, including numerous heads of state and American civil rights activist Jesse Jackson.
Uhuru Kenyatta became the country's fourth president after a prolonged election dispute that ended up in the Kenyan Supreme Court.
Tens of thousands of people packed a Nairobi stadium Tuesday to watch the inauguration. Jackson, a former U.S. presidential candidate, attended the festivities as a private guest.
Kenyatta, the 51-year-old son of Kenya's founding leader, won the election with 50.07% of the vote.
His chief rival, Raila Odinga, won 43.31% of the vote. Odinga challenged the outcome in court, saying it was flawed and marred by technical problems.
After the court upheld Kenyatta's election, Odinga offered the president-elect his congratulations.
"The court has now spoken," Odinga said. "I wish the president-elect and his team well."
Kenyatta and Odinga are the sons of the nation's first president and vice president, respectively -- stirring memories of a political dynasty that dates back to the 1960s.
Their fathers started out as allies in the quest for Kenyan independence from Britain.
But the elder politicians' relationship ended in bad blood when founding President Jomo Kenyatta forced out his vice president, Jaramogi Odinga, following a series of disputes.
A new opportunity for Kenya
Despite controversy over the recent election results, the mutual acceptance by the two sons could help restore the nation's image as a bastion of stability after disputed election results in 2007 led to bloody chaos.
In that election, more than 1,200 people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced after Odinga disputed the results, which showed incumbent President Mwai Kibaki as the winner.
At the time, supporters of both candidates battled in the streets with crude weapons, not in court.
But the upholding of Kenyatta's victory raises the prospect of complicated diplomatic ties with the West.
The International Criminal Court has indicted him for allegedly funding a local militia that conducted reprisal attacks in the last election in 2007. His running mate, William Ruto, also faces ICC charges at The Hague, in the Netherlands.
Both have denied the charges and have said they will cooperate with the court to clear their names.
Kenya is East Africa's biggest economy and a crucial trade route into the rest of the continent.
It provides an important buffer of stability in a region that includes the fledgling Somali government and the politically tense Sudan and South Sudan.
Kenya is also a major U.S. ally in the war against Islamist militants in the region and has remained relatively peaceful amid civil wars in neighboring nations.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –Mohamed Morsi, the Egyptian president, has condemned deadly clashes at the Cairo headquarters of the Coptic Christian pope as "an attack against myself", ordering a quick probe into the violence, a statement said.
"I consider any attack on the cathedral an attack against myself," Morsi said on Sunday in a statement published by the official MENA news agency.
The probe follows clashes after a funeral for Copts slain in sectarian violence.
At least one person was reported killed and MENA said 17 people had been injured in fighting in Sunday's violence.
Public television showed riot police firing tear gas to disperse the crowd.
In some of the worst sectarian violence for months on Friday, four Christians and one Muslim were killed in El Khusus,
north of Cairo, when members of both communities started shooting at each other.
New clashes erupted on Sunday when hundreds of angry Copts who had attended a funeral service at St Mark's Cathedral spilled out into the streets of Cairo, chanting "With our blood and soul we will sacrifice ourselves for the cross."
After an emotional church service, where relatives of the dead wept, young Christians started hurling rocks at police officers, a witness said.
The protesters smashed six private cars and set two on fire, prompting an angry reaction from Muslims living in the neighbourhood, who threw stones at them, a witness said.
Christian-Muslim confrontations have increased in Muslim-majority Egypt since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in 2011 gave freer rein to hardline Islamists repressed under his rule.
Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh, reporting from Cairo, said that the situation "remained tense" outside the cathedral, with gunshots still being heard in the area as of late Sunday afternoon.
"From the beginning, the mood during the funeral marches was one of clear anger. The Christian community have been complaining for two years now, since the revolution, of increased physical attacks against them," said Rageh.
"Their concern is now that Islamic groups have been empowered and have been acting more freely after the revolution, that little is being done to address the long-standing roots of sectarian tension."
President Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader elected in June, has promised to protect the rights of Copts, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 84 million people.
Egypt's Coptic Church issued a statement on Sunday night calling for calm and expressing sorrow for the clashes.
Christians have complained of attacks on churches by radical Islamists, incidents that have sharpened long-standing Christian grievances about being sidelined in the workplace and in law.
The president's office and top Muslim leaders were quick to condemn Friday's clashes, which happened after Christian children scrawled on the wall of a Muslim religious institute, according to witnesses.
Still, many Christians at the funeral called for Morsi and his Islamist allies to go, some of them chanting "The blood of
Christians is not cheap, Morsi, you villain."-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Al Jazeera
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Egypt’s most popular television satirist, who every week skewers the Islamist president and hard-line clerics on his Jon Stewart-style “Daily Show,” was released on bail Sunday but could face charges of insulting the country’s leader and Islam.
Bassem Youssef is the most prominent critic of President Mohammed Morsi to be called in for questioning in recent weeks, in what the opposition says is a campaign to intimidate critics amid wave after wave of political unrest in deeply polarized Egypt.
Arrest warrants have been issued for five prominent anti-government activists accused of instigating violence.
Deputy chief prosecutor Hassan Yassin denied the nearly five-hour interrogation was part of an intimidation campaign and said his department was enforcing the law and seeking to establish some guidelines on freedom of expression.
There must be guidelines for those working in the media to observe so as not violate the law
“The prosecution is the protector of social rights and we work on implementing the law. … There must be guidelines for those working in the media to observe so as not violate the law,” Yassin told The Associated Press.
Morsi last week accused private media of fanning violence and argued that it was being used for political aims.
But Yassin denied that the prosecutor’s office was operating at the behest of the presidency to go after Morsi’s critics, saying it has also interrogated and sentenced Islamists. Morsi appointed the chief prosecutor late last year despite an outcry from many in the judiciary who accused him of trampling on their right to choose the top prosecutor.
A court ruling last week declared Morsi’s appointment void, a verdict he will likely appeal.
“There is no contact between us and the presidency. … Just like we moved against someone who insults Christianity, we moved against someone who is accused of insulting Islam,” he said.
Youssef is the host of the weekly political satire show known for his skits lampooning Morsi and Egypt’s newly empowered Islamist political class. But he also mocks the opposition and the media.
The fast-paced show has attracted a wide viewership, while at the same time earning its fair share of detractors. Youssef has been a frequent target of lawsuits, most of them brought by Islamist lawyers who accused him of “corrupting morals” or violating “religious principles.”
Youssef frequently imitates Morsi’s speeches and gestures. He has fact-checked the president, and in one particularly popular episode earlier this year, he played video clips showing remarks by Morsi, made in 2010 before he became president, calling Zionists “pigs.”
The remarks caused a brief diplomatic tiff with the U.S. administration, and Morsi had to issue a statement to defuse the flap.
In his last episode this week, Youssef thanked Morsi for providing him with so much material.
Youssef has also made regular jokes about comments by Islamic clerics and presenters on Islamic TV stations, exposing contradictions between their comments and public speeches and what he considers the spirit of Islam.
Prosecutor Mohammed el-Sayed Khalifa was quoted on the website of the state-owned Al-Ahram daily that he has 28 plaintiffs in the case against Youssef accusing him of insulting Islam, mocking prayers, and “belittling” Morsi in the eyes of the world and his own people.
The plaintiffs are mostly regular citizens, according to Shaimaa Abul-Kheir, a representative of the New-York based Committee to Protect Journalists who was allowed to attend the interrogation.
In remarks to a TV presenter on CBC, the private station that airs his program, Youssef said on Saturday that his program does not insult Islam but aims to expose those who “distort” it.
“We don’t insult religion. What we do is expose those so-called religious and Islamic stations which have offended Islam more than anyone else,” he said. “If anyone is to be investigated for insulting religions, it should be all those who use Islam as a weapon and a political tool to swallow the others using religion.”
They asked me the colour of my eyes. Really
When asked if programs in Egypt should be less scathing than those of the West, Youssef said: “We will give (the West) an example of how freedoms are respected after the revolution,” he said of the 2011 uprising that ousted longtime authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak.
After turning himself in for questioning, Youssef first tweeted a series of quips from the prosecutor’s office.
“They asked me the colour of my eyes. Really,” one said.
A news broadcaster at a TV station affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, Misr 25, accused Youssef of “mocking” the investigation. His tweets later were erased and he wrote that some reports from inside the interrogation room were “incorrect.”
Amr Moussa, a former presidential candidate, called the warrant for Youssef’s arrest a “provocation to Egyptians who are known for their love of what is funny.”
“There is nothing odious about criticizing the president,” he said in an emailed statement. “This humanizes the president.”
Gamal Eid, a rights lawyer, said accusing Youssef of insulting religion — as opposed to just the president — is a tactic aimed at increasing public sympathy for the investigation.
“The accusation of insulting religion would mobilize more people against him,” Eid said.
Gamal Heshmat, a lawmaker from the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party, dismissed the opposition’s claims of an intimidation campaign as an “exaggeration,” adding that many critics of Morsi and his group are responsible for instigating violence and “offending” many in the public.
“What is the problem with abiding by the law? No one was detained and there were no extra-legal measures,” he told the AP, describing the media as “chaotic,” with numerous attacks against Morsi but few prosecutions.
“It is offensive … Let the judiciary decide,” he said.
A prosecution official said Youssef was to pay a bail of 15,000 LE (U.S. $2,200), pending the completion of an investigation. Youssef tweeted that the bail is for three separate cases.
Eid, the rights lawyer, said the release on bail means all options are open.
“The prosecution could continue investigation, put the case aside or send it to trial.”
Meanwhile, in Egypt’s second largest city, Alexandria, 11 people detained on Saturday including five lawyers accused of attacking a police station were released without charges.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Zambia's former President Rupiah Banda has been arrested in connection with a Nigerian oil deal, officials say.
He is accused of stealing more than $11m (£7m) during his three years in office, Reuters news agency reports.
Mr Banda, who was stripped of presidential immunity earlier this month, was questioned for nearly three hours before being freed on bail.
The former president denies the charges and says he is the victim of a witch-hunt. He is due in court on Tuesday.
Shortly after being released, Mr Banda addressed his supporters, telling them to remain calm and that he would win the case in court.
The former leader lost 2011 elections to Michael Sata, whose government is investigating several high-profile deals made by Mr Banda's administration amid accusations of corruption.
Mr Banda led Africa's top copper producer from 2008 to 2011.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – In a newly-released video, the pro-Taliban militants have threatened to kill former President Pervez Musharraf upon his arrival in Pakistan.
On Saturday, Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Ehsanullah Ehsan said in the video that the militant group had prepared a "death squad" to kill Musharraf.
This comes as the former leader prepares to fly home after nearly five years of self-imposed exile. The warning has come only a day ahead of Musharraf’s flight from Dubai to the port city of Karachi.
The former army chief-turned-president recently announced that he would return to Pakistan to attend the May general elections.
A court in Karachi secured Musharraf’s freedom two days ago by granting him 14 days’ bail.
The decision removed the last obstacle to his return. The 70-year-old Musharraf has been charged with several offences, including involvement in the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister, Benezir Bhutto.
Musharraf, who assumed power in a bloodless coup in 1999, was forced to step down and leave Pakistan in 2008. He’s been living in the UK and the UAE since then.-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Press TV