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Daily Archives: June 18, 2008

Protesters take 65 police, general hostage in Peru

Thousands of protesters demanding a greater share of economic benefits from mining operations overwhelmed riot police in southern Peru Monday and took hostage 65 police and a general, mediators said.
Furious residents of Moquegua, a town 1,200 kilometres south of Lima, have conducted a weeklong road blockade to demand more from an economic boom that has enriched mining companies.
In a tense standoff about 20,000 people have converged on a cathedral where the hostages were being held.
The violence left about 60 people injured, including 13 — mostly female police officers — who were released by the demonstrators, Veronica Paredes, of the Peruvian ombudsman's office which is seeking to negotiate an end to the violence, said.
She said 65 police were captured in the clashes and were being held in a cathedral along with a commanding officer, General Alberto Jordan.
"Right now the hostages are being held in the cathedral in Moquegua and they can not leave," Paredes said, adding that an angry mob had gathered outside the cathedral.
General Jordan told a radio station that conditions around the cathedral remained highly volatile and that government forces needed to withdraw.
"The situation in Moquegua is no longer under police control," Jordan told RPP radio.
"I have wounded here and I am in trouble, so I urge police to please draw back. There are 20,000 people, and it is because of them that the police must withdraw."
In the capital Lima, Prime Minister Jorge del Castillo was aiming to reach a deal with leaders of the protesters, who in their weeklong protests have blocked the main highway from the south of the Andean nation to Chile.
The inhabitants of Moquegua, a town of 50,000, insist that the government redistribute taxes paid by Southern Peru Copper Corporation, the country's largest copper producer.
The company is exploiting vast mineral reserves in arid Tacna, Peru's southernmost region bordering Chile, and capitalising on record prices on the world's copper market.
Social unrest is common in Peru's mining regions, where the population accuses large mining companies of generating windfall profits and polluting the environment while offering little benefit to local residents.


Israel, Syria to hold more peace talks in July: Babacan

Israel and Syria will hold two further rounds of indirect peace talks in July, after their latest session in Turkey left both sides "extremely satisfied," Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said yesterday.
The second round of talks mediated by Turkey were "completed with success", on Monday, Babacan told reporters after talks with EU officials in Luxembourg.
"More importantly the calendar was set for the next two meetings which will be held in July," he added.
Babacan, in Luxembourg for an EU membership conference, said he did "not wish to elevate the expectations because this is a very complicated matter".
The two days of discussions that ended in Turkey on Monday, involved Turkish mediators shuttling between a hotel containing a Syrian negotiating team and another housing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's top advisors, Shalom Turjeman and Yoram Turbowitz.
"Both parties left extremely satisfied with the negotiations," the Turkish minister said.
Israeli President Shimon Peres on Sunday publicly called on Syria to enter direct talks, citing the example of former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, who forged a peace deal with the Jewish state.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said earlier this month that direct peace talks with Israel were unlikely before 2009 and depended on the fate of Olmert, who has been dogged by calls for his resignation over a graft scandal.
The two countries announced last month they had resumed indirect peace talks under Turkish mediation after an eight-year freeze.
"Turkey is acting as facilitator and Turkey is trusted by both of these countries," said Babacan.
"As long as we see the opportunity for peace we are determined to continue the process. Of course the will of both parties is very important."
The last round of negotiations broke down in 2000 over the fate of the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau which Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and annexed in 1981, a move not internationally recognised.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem claimed Damascus had received Israeli commitments for a full withdrawal from the Golan but Israeli officials have been tight-lipped about the controversial issue.
Israel is demanding that Damascus break off its ties with Iran, the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement and Lebanon's Hezbollah militia. Israel considers both groups to be terrorist organisations.
Syria has meanwhile said it would reject any preconditions in the talks that call on Damascus to change its relations with other countries or groups.