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Wide Angle Blog
September 25th, 2009

Iran has been building a second uranium enrichment plant, a covert project that the U.S. has been tracking for years. Iran admitted to the project in a cryptic letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency on Monday, and President Obama disclosed the information this morning in a joint appearance with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The three leaders threatened new sanctions demanded immediate access to the site.

The Group of 20, which includes both wealthy, industrialized nations and large developing countries, will permanently replace the Group of 7 as the main global forum on economic policy.

Tens of thousands of Yemenis displaced by weeks of fighting in the north of the country face a humanitarian crisis exacerbated by heavy rains and highway robbers targeting relief convoys.

Afghanistan will recount a limited sample of 10 percent of votes cast in the disputed August 20 presidential election in order to speed up the recount process so that if a run-off is necessary, it can be held before winter.

September 24th, 2009

The U.N. Security Council unanimously passes a resolution aimed at “a world without nuclear weapons,” in the words of President Obama, who chaired the special session. The resolution is intended to reduce the chances of civilian nuclear programs being used for military purposes, and to ensure full compliance with existing arms agreements, particularly from countries such as Iran and North Korea.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says that the U.S. will engage with Burma’s military government, while also maintaining sanctions imposed on account of the junta’s human rights abuses. Burma’s pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi expresses her support for the new U.S. policy.

Heads of state from the Group of 20 gather in Pittsburgh tonight. Three main issues are on the table: “rebalancing” the world economy, meaning that debtors like the U.S. should save more, while exporters like China should consume more; tightening financial regulation around the world; and allowing poorer countries more representation at the International Monetary Fund.

The largest-ever discovery of Anglo-Saxon treasures is uncovered by an amateur in a field in Staffordshire, England. The collection of nearly 1,500 gold and silver pieces will “alter our perception of Anglo-Saxon England,” says Leslie Webster, former curator of Anglo-Saxon archaeology at the British Museum.

September 23rd, 2009

President Obama addresses the U.N. general assembly, touching on issues including climate change, arms reduction, and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and says that the U.S. is committed to “a new era of engagement with the world.” Directly following Mr. Obama’s speech, Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi takes the floor.

Earlier this morning, President Obama spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in a meeting which a senior administration source called “businesslike.” Expressing his impatience, Obama told the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, “We’ve had enough of talks….it’s time to move forward.”

Residents of Sydney, Australia awake to an eerie orange sky as the worst dust storms in at least 70 years engulf the city and move north towards Queensland.

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology officially opens. The university, which boasts the world’s 14th fastest supercomputer and one of the world’s largest endowments, could also become a cultural battleground in this conservative country — the school is co-ed, and female students will mix freely with males and will not be required to wear veils.

September 22nd, 2009

French riot police bulldoze a makeshift camp for undocumented migrants in the northern Channel port of Calais and detain 278 people, mostly young men from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, who lived in the camp, known as “the jungle,” while waiting for the opportunity to jump a ferry or train to the U.K.

Addressing world leaders gathered for a U.N. summit on climate change, President Obama declares that the U.S. is “determined to act,” and encourages unity on the issue, saying the world “cannot allow the old divisions that have characterized the climate debate for so many years to block our progress.”

China bans foreign tourists from Tibet ahead of the 60th anniversary of Communist rule in the country, which will be celebrated on October 1 with a military parade, fireworks, and a speech by President Hu Jintao.

Honduran security forces use tear gas to break up demonstrations outside the Brazilian embassy in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa, where deposed President Manual Zalaya has been since his surprise return to the country yesterday.

September 21st, 2009

The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, warns that the conflict “will likely result in failure” unless additional troops are deployed and a new strategy developed. McChrystal is expected to request anywhere from 10,000 to 45,000 additional troops, beyond the 68,000 that have already been approved.

World leaders gather in New York this week for the U.N. general assembly; among them are new presidents of the U.S., Russia and China, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, attending for the first time. Issues to be discussed include climate change and nuclear proliferation.

President Obama will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the U.N. general assembly on Tuesday, but does not have “grand expectations” for the meeting.

More than 140 rebels are killed as the Yemeni army fights back a major offensive in the northern city of Sadah. The clash is the bloodiest since Houthi rebels began fighting with goverment forces in 2004.

September 18th, 2009

Thirty-three people are killed when a car bomb erupts in a busy market town near Kohat, in northwestern Pakistan. The attack hit as shoppers were buying provisions for the Eid al-Fitr feast, which marks the end of Ramadan.

Members of the Iranian opposition clash with the supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s ruling party during the annual al-Quds Day demonstrations. Al-Quds Day, meaning Jerusalem Day, is a day of pro-Palestinian marches traditionally held on the last Friday before the end of Ramadan. See photos of the demonstrations on flickr.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin praises President Obama for canceling the Bush-era antiballistic missile system that was planned to be built in Eastern Europe, calling the decision “right and brave.” Putin did not say whether Russia would respond with concessions on nuclear proliferation.

Marking the anniversary of the military coup that followed a pro-democracy uprising in 1998, Burma’s military government announces that it will free 7,114 prisoners, but it is unclear if any of those granted amnesty are political prisoners.

September 17th, 2009

The U.S. government announces plans to scrap a Europe-based long-range missile defense system in favor of a flexible, ship-based regional shield targeting medium to short-range rockets. Conservatives in the U.S. criticize the move as a capitulation to Russia and an abandonment of Poland and the Czech Republic where the system was to be based, while Russia’s ambassador to NATO hails the move, saying “It’s like having a decomposing corpse in your flat – and then the mortician comes and takes it away.”

Six Italian soldiers are killed and three wounded in a vehicle-borne suicide attack in the Afghan capital of Kabul, one of the single deadliest incidents against the 100,000 NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The administration of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is accused of a massive and multiyear effort to spy on political opponents, the media, human rights organizations and members of the Supreme Court.

The deputy commander of African Union peacekeeping forces in Somalia and 10 others are killed in a double-suicide attack against an A.U. base in Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu. The extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it is revenge for the U.S. operation that killed al-Qaeda suspect Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan on Monday.

Richard Goldstein, head of the U.N. commission investigating Israel’s offensive last year into the Gaza Strip, says Israeli commanders and soldiers should be held accountable for war crimes committed during the operation.  The administration of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is calling the commission’s report biased and asked senior members of the Obama administration to help limit international fallout from the report’s findings.

September 16th, 2009

Japan’s parliament names Yukio Hatoyama as the country’s new prime minister, formalizing the first change of government by a political party with a solid majority in half a century. Hatoyama immediately announces his cabinet, which includes a new defense minister who strongly opposes the country’s military support for the U.S. in Afghanistan, making it likely that Japan will withdraw its naval ships from the war there early next year.

Afghan election officials begin preparations for a second round of voting to determine last month’s controversial presidential election marred by allegations of large-scale rigging in favor of Hamid Karzai. The second round will take place in five weeks only if Karzai’s share of the vote – which currently stands at 54% – falls to less than 50 percent. With 10 percent of ballots currently under scrutiny, this appears increasingly likely.

The World Bank says development efforts in poorer nations will be derailed without a huge increase in funding for climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. The bank warns that the increase in global average temperatures will still result in shrinking levels of G.D.P. for many African and Asian countries and lead to a global health catastrophe.

Kenyan authorities begin to move residents out of Africa’s largest slum – the Kibera settlement in Nairobi. Officials expect the clearance of about one million people to take up to five years. The first people to move will be housed in 300 new apartments. Prime Minister Raila Odinga says new ground is being prepared for a “modern, low income residential estate with modern schools, markets, playgrounds and other facilities.”

A senior United Nations official begins a visit to Sri Lanka for two days of talks about the slow pace of release of Tamil refugees. Many are still detained in government-run camps four months after the end of the war. The U.N. official may also press for a probe into human rights abuses during the final stages of the military’s victory over Tamil rebels.

September 15th, 2009

The U.N. Electoral Complaints Commission reports that over 2,500 polling stations in Afghanistan’s presidential elections showed signs of fraud, ordering 10% of all ballots nationwide to be recounted. Incumbent President Hamid Karzai leads the vote count at 54% with 95% of ballots counted, but could be forced into a runoff with challenger Abdullah Abdullah if that lead drops below 50% after questionable ballots are reviewed.

Muntandhar al-Zeidi, the Iraqi television reporter who achieved international notoriety and acclaim for throwing his shoes at U.S. President George Bush, is released from jail. At a press conference following his release, he defended his actions, saying “throwing shoes against the war criminal Bush” was his way of giving voice to those who lost loved ones as a result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Al-Zeidi also alleges he was tortured with electric shocks and severely beaten after his arrest.

U.S. special forces kill a top al-Queda operative in Somalia. Six helicopters took part in the operation that killed Saleh Ali Nahban, the main suspect in a 2002 attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner and bomb a hotel in Kenya.

The European parliament is expected to appoint Jose Manuel Barroso to another 5-year term as European Commission president. Barroso was opposed in his bid for the E.U.’s highest profile post by groups critical of his actions during the global financial crisis, but no other candidate came forward to oppose him.

U.S. counterterrorism agents raid several apartments in New York City in search of al Qaeda-linked explosives. They found nothing but warned law enforcement officials across the country to be on the lookout for activities indicating the manufacture of homemade bombs.

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