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Posts Tagged ‘EXIT’

NATO opens summit on Afghan exit strategy

In Uncategorized on November 20, 2010 at 4:12 pm

Gates, Petraeus differ over Afghanistan exit

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2010 at 11:22 am

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US Defense Secretary Robert Gates insisted Monday the July 2011 date to start withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan was set in stone, putting him at odds with his top Afghan war commander.

Gates and General David Petraeus were in lock-step on the need for a gradual withdrawal, but a series of interviews exposed discord over the flexibility of the start date given last November by US President Barack Obama.

AFP/File – US soldiers patrol with Afghan National Army soldiers in Kukaran in Kandahar province.

“There is no question in anybody’s mind that we are going to begin drawing down troops in July of 2011,” Gates told The Los Angeles Times.

But Petraeus, asked in a separate interview whether he could reach that juncture and have to recommend a delay to Obama because of the conditions on the ground, replied: “Certainly, yeah.

“I think the president has been quite clear in explaining that it’s a process, not an event, and that it’s conditions-based,” he told NBC television’s “Meet the Press” program on Sunday.

“The president and I sat down in the Oval Office and he expressed very clearly that what he wants from me is my best professional military advice.”

Afghanistan, with the help of its Western backers, is trying to build up its army and police so that they can take responsibility for security from US-led NATO forces by the end of 2014.

The Taliban, toppled in a 2001 US-led invasion, still control large swathes of the south and have put up stiff resistance to a surge of 30,000 more US troops due to swell American numbers to 100,000 in the coming weeks.

US public support for the near nine-year war and Obama’s handling of it are at an all-time low, according to opinion polls here, while the death toll for American troops hit a record monthly high in July of 66.

Both Gates, in the LA Times, and Petraeus, in a series of interviews with NBC, The New York Times and The Washington Post, sought to reassure a skeptical public that the American-led coalition can succeed in its aims.

Petraeus told The New York Times he did not just want to preside over a “graceful exit,” while Gates suggested some security responsibilities could begin to be transferred to Afghan forces as early as early next year.

Obama’s mid-2011 deadline to begin a limited withdrawal has been strongly criticized by some who believe it sent out the message America is not in the fight for the long-term and boosted the Taliban’s resolve to wait it out.

Others attack him for not pulling out troops fast enough as they believe US and NATO forces are bogged down in an unwinnable conflict.

Petraeus, giving his first major interviews since assuming command of more than 140,000 coalition troops in Afghanistan last month, also said he would be prepared to negotiate with Taliban with “blood on their hands.”

The general, who helped turn around the Iraq war for Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush — partly by wheeling and dealing with warring factions — said a new reconciliation and reintegration strategy aimed at persuading Afghan insurgents to change sides was “fairly imminent.”

There is “every possibility, I think, that there can be low- and mid-level reintegration and indeed some fracturing of the senior leadership that could be really defined as reconciliation.”

In his interview with The Washington Post, Petraeus said 365 insurgent leaders and 2,400 rank-and-file fighters have been killed or captured over the past three months.

The operations have led “some leaders of some elements” of the insurgency to begin reconciliation discussions with the Afghan government, he told the newspaper, characterizing the interactions as “meaningful.”

Petraeus formally took over command of the Afghan war in July after Obama dismissed General Stanley McChrystal after he and his staff made disparaging comments about senior US administration figures.

The interviews came hours before the website announced that the total number of foreign troops killed since the start of the Afghan war in 2001 had topped 2,000, including 1,226 Americans and 331 from Britain.

Last week, the United Nations said the number of civilian casualties in the Afghan war had risen sharply in the first six months of this year to reach 1,271 Afghans. Another 1,997 people were wounded.

Source: SGGP

BP’s Hayward ignites fresh US anger as he heads for the exit

In Uncategorized on July 28, 2010 at 3:17 am

LONDON, July 28, 2010 (AFP) – BP’s outgoing chief executive Tony Hayward was the target of fresh US anger Wednesday after claiming he had been “demonised and vilified,” threatening efforts to draw a line under the Gulf oil spill.

The comments by Hayward, who resigned Tuesday following his heavily criticised handling of the Gulf of Mexico disaster, drew renewed criticism from Washington as BP struggles to restore its reputation after the spillage.

Ships assist in clean up and containment near the source of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill July 27, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. AFP

“I don’t think that a lot of people in any country are feeling overly sorry for the former CEO of BP,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Hayward’s departure was a drastic move by the oil giant to rebuild its image in the aftermath of the spill that is set to cost the British group 32 billion dollars.

He will be succeeded by Bob Dudley, who is in charge of BP’s Gulf clean-up operations and who has vowed to “change the culture” of how the company tackles safety issues.

BP also said Tuesday it had made a record 16.9-billion-dollar loss in the second quarter, and will sell 30 billion dollars of assets over the next 18 months as it seeks to return to profitability.

“This is a very sad day for me personally,” Hayward told a conference call.

“Whether it is fair or unfair is not the point. I became the public face and was demonised and vilified. BP cannot move on in the US with me as its leader.”

But Gibbs hit back: “What’s not fair is what has happened on the Gulf, what is not fair is that the actions of some have caused the greatest environmental disaster that our country has ever seen.”

Hayward was also the target of fresh anger in the United States over a separate matter — his decision to snub a US Senate hearing into BP’s alleged role in the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez said the hearing, originally scheduled to take place Thursday, had been postponed after key witnesses, including Hayward, had refused to attend.

He accused the BP executive of only being interested in his “multi-million-dollar golden parachute.”

Under his contract, Hayward will receive one year’s salary, worth 1.045 million pounds (1.245 million euros, 1.620 million dollars). He also has a pension pot totalling 11 million pounds.

In its results Tuesday, BP was pushed into the red by the 32.2 billion dollars set aside to pay for the costs of the spill — which was the worst environmental disaster in US history.

BP and Hayward have been mauled by Washington since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers and unleashing millions of gallons of crude into the sea and onto the US Gulf coast.

It has taken more than three months to stem the Gulf of Mexico oil flow. Up to four million barrels (170 million gallons) of crude have escaped.

The catastrophe has destroyed vital tourism, fishing and oil industries in the five US Gulf coast states and left BP facing soaring clean-up and compensation costs.

Hayward will step down on October 1, and will remain a BP board member until November 30, but has meanwhile been nominated as a non-executive director of Russian joint venture TNK-BP.

Dudley will become BP’s first American chief executive following the resignation.

“I think sometimes events like this shake you to the core, the foundation, and you have two responses,” Dudley said in an TV interview with ABC News, in reference to the oil disaster.

“One is to run away and hide, the other is to respond and really change the culture of the company and make sure all the checks and balances are there, just to make sure this does not happen again.”

Dudley added that his top priority was to permanently seal the Gulf well, contain the crude spill and to clean up and restore the area’s beaches. The group finally capped the leak on July 15.

BP’s share price has plunged about 40 percent since the explosion — wiping tens of billions of dollars off the group’s market value. BP shares closed down 2.63 percent at 406 pence in London.

Hayward, 53, had already handed over day-to-day management of the crisis in June to Dudley, as criticism mounted over his gaffe-prone handling of the disaster.

Hayward enraged Gulf residents when he said in a May 18 interview that the environmental impact of the spill would be “very, very modest.”

Then on May 30 he was seen as insensitive to the families of the dead rig workers when he said he wanted the disaster over with so he could have his “life back”.

Source: SGGP

Polish rivals face run-off in presidential vote: exit polls

In Uncategorized on June 21, 2010 at 12:32 pm

 Polish interim president Bronislaw Komorowski placed first in an election Sunday to replace head of state Lech Kaczynski, who died in an air crash, but faces a run-off against the late leader’s twin, exit polls showed.

Liberal parliamentary speaker Komorowski scored 41.2 percent ahead of 35.8 percent for conservative ex-premier Jaroslaw Kaczynski, falling short of the 50 percent mark needed to avoid a second round on July 4.

“In life, as in football and all sports, it’s extra time that’s the most difficult,” Komorowski, 58, told cheering supporters in Warsaw.

“Let’s be wide awake and mobilise our strength and all our energy for the final stretch.”

Parliament speaker, acting president and presidential candidate Bronislaw Komorowski greets supporters in Warsaw after acknowledging exit polls for the early presidential elections in Poland.

Kaczynski, 61, urged his camp to brace for the run-off, which pre-election polls suggested Komorowski would win.

“The key to victory is faith, the conviction that it is possible and necessary to win. We must win for our homeland, for Poland,” he said at his Warsaw base.

The exit poll by the TNS OBOP agency for Polish public television was released as voting ended at 8:00 pm (1800 GMT). Official results are due Monday.

Centre-left Social Democrat Grzegorz Napieralski scored a surprise 14 percent, setting him up as a possible kingmaker. Polls showed two-thirds of his electorate would back Komorowski.

“Grzegorz Napieralski has won important political capital to tip the balance in the second round,” sociologist Professor Edmund Wnuk-Lipinski told AFP.

Analyst Stanislaw Mocek noted many Poles go on vacation in July, potentially playing into Kaczynski’s hands. “His voters are highly disciplined,” Mocek said.

Seven other candidates each took less than three percent.

Polls put turnout at around 55 percent.

The snap ballot came after Lech Kaczynski died on April 10 in western Russia along with 95 others including his wife Maria and top political and military figures, leaving Poland reeling.

Their plane was heading to a memorial ceremony for thousands of Polish officers killed by the Soviets during World War II.

The campaign was also overshadowed by floods that killed 24 people and drove thousands from their homes.

The election is crucial for the Kaczynskis‘ eurosceptic conservative Law and Justice party which, after losing power in a 2007 parliamentary election, counted on the president’s veto to hamper the liberal government’s policies.

On the other hand, victory for Komorowski — a close ally of Prime Minister Donald Tusk — would boost their market-friendly Civic Platform party before parliamentary elections due late next year.

In Warsaw Sunday, Kaczynski loyalists signed a 100-metre (yard) red-and-white Polish flag at his headquarters.

“This is a flag to show how many Poles support Jaroslaw Kaczynski. I believe he will win. He is the only person who will work for an independent Poland,” said Romualda Wasik, 30.

But Komorowski voter Grazyna Rykowa, 50, said that was wrongheaded.

“I chose Bronislaw Komorowski because of his experience in parliament and because Mr. Kaczynski did not pass the test when he served as prime minister — he already had his chance,” she said.

Under the constitution, Komorowski became acting president after the plane crash.

Even before it, he was preparing to challenge Lech Kaczynski’s bid for a second term in an election originally scheduled for later this year, and was tipped to win.

Despite shared roots in Solidarity, the movement that brought down Poland’s communist regime in 1989, Civic Platform and Law and Justice are bitter rivals.

“They’re similar as candidates really, both of them with roots in the anti-communist opposition, but I voted for Jaroslaw Kaczynski — he’s more inclined to social welfare,” said 25-year-old Michal Luczak.

Lech Kaczynski was elected president in 2005 and Jaroslaw Kaczynski was premier in 2006-2007. The period saw regular clashes between the twins and fellow EU leaders — Poland joined the bloc in 2004 — plus mudslinging at home.

The pro-EU Civic Platform trounced Law and Justice in the 2007 general election.

Source: SGGP

Mexico send sorry France to brink of World Cup exit

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2010 at 4:26 am

 France, the 1998 world champions and 2006 runners-up, were left teetering on the brink of World Cup first round elimination on Thursday when they slumped to a 2-0 defeat against Mexico.

Veteran Cuauhtemoc Blanco converted a late penalty to clinch the victory after substitute striker, Manchester United-bound Javier Hernandez, had put the Central Americans ahead 64 minutes into the Group A showdown at Peter Mokaba Stadium.

Mexico’s first victory over France left them and Uruguay level on four points ahead of a June 22 Rustenburg clash and both will advance to the next round by drawing.

France play South Africa, who have a point each, at the same time in Bloemfontein and if either wins and the other game delivers a positive result, goal difference could come into play.

Mexico’s Javier Hernandez celebrates after scoring a goal during the Group A first round 2010 World Cup football match France vs. Mexico at Peter Mokaba stadium in Polokwane. Mexico won 2-0.

“We need a miracle now,” said France coach Raymond Domenech. “We have to be strong and at least play for our honour. At least we must show something in the last match. When we are forced to rely on others, there’s nothing to say.”

Skipper Rafael Marquez warned Mexico they could not let the win go to their heads.

“We have to keep our feet on the ground despite this win,” the Barcelona defender said.

Coach Javier Aguirre added: “It was very important to beat France – they are after all the vice-world champions. We turned in a very fine performance – but we are not yet mathematically through.

Hernandez, nicknamed the Little Pea, was ebullient after his goal.

“I am delighted with this victory more so than for my goal or indeed getting the man of the match award.

“We wanted to make the Mexican people happy and this win is a first step for there is a long way to go.”

The fourth meeting of the countries in the history of the tournament kicked off in cold conditions before a large colourful crowd with each team making one change from their opening encounter last Friday.

Malouda replaced Yoann Gourcuff in the French line-up while defender Hector Morena came in for Paul Aguilar in the Mexico side.

Saudi Arabian referee Khalil al-Ghamdi stamped his imprint early with a fourth-minute caution for veteran Mexican striker Guillermo Franco amid much protest.

Mexico had a couple of early half chances that were not put away by Carlos Vela and Franco while a slick French free-kick manoeuvre fizzled out as Franck Ribery overhit a cross.

The Central Americans were more threatening as the halfway point of the opening half approached with a William Gallas block taking the sting out of a move and Carlos Salcido firing past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris only to miss the target.

It was Lloris versus Salcido again on 27 minutes with the French goalkeeper doing well to push away a hard, low drive after the Mexican cut in from the left flank helped by timid defending.

Mexico suffered a blow when Vela limped off to be replaced by Pablo Barrera, who put Lloris under pressure almost immediately from a cross that the goalkeeper unconvincingly punched away.

Mexico broke the deadlock on 64 minutes when Hernandez raced on to a lobbed Rafael Marquez pass, rounded Lloris and calmly stroked the ball into the net.

Domenech, who gives way after this tournament to former star Laurent Blanc, stared emotion-less at the action as his side struggled to make an impact up front.

And his worst fears were realised after 79 minutes when Eric Abidal fouled Pablo Berrera and 37-year-old Blanco made a long run before placing a low spot kick wide of Lloris into the corner of the net.

Source: SGGP

Pandemonium breaks out at MTV EXIT concert

In Uncategorized on March 31, 2010 at 9:29 am

The much-anticipated music event “MTV EXIT Concert” on March 27 in Hanoi turned into a chaotic nightmare for both fans and organizers with around 20 young audience members being taken to hospital after fainting. As a big caution from the incident, organizers are required to prepare better for the remaining of their Vietnam tour in April.

Fans at the MTV EXIT concert in Hanoi clamor near the stage at My Dinh stadium on March 27.

Overzealous fans

Ahead of the event, Vietnamese fans went wild in anticipation of the arrival of boy-band Super Junior (SJ) from South Korea. The local SJ fan club, known as E.L.F Vietnam, organized a camp-out at the airport, waiting 12 hours for their idols to arrive.

The group then lined up in front of the My Dinh Stadium, where the concert took place, from the early morning of March 27. Dozens of young fans went without food, beverages and rest for hours to get a spot as close to the stage as possible.  

When the stadium finally opened in the evening, large crowds rushed in and fans clamored for the best viewing areas. But even those who got close said the fun was short-lived as inexperienced organizers and security guards were unable to stop the crowds from becoming unruly.

Chaos broke out with people pushing, pulling and even jumping on top of each other to get closer to the stage. Several audience members were brought to tears in the melee while others shouted for help. Around 20 people fainted in the crowd and had to be carried out by security personnel.

Audience members also accused security staff and organizers of being needlessly rude in dealing with the situation.

Organizers blamed for inexperience

Much of the outrage expressed by audiences over the pandemonium is being targeted at the event’s organizers.

Vo Hoang Trang, a fan who flew from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi for the show, expressed anger at the poorly organized event. “I paid nearly VND3 million for a flight and about VND1 million for accommodation just to see the show,” said Trang. “But, in return, I received a boring and poorly produced show.”

Audiences complained that the stage design was amateurish and boring. Organizers were also accused of holding the concert at an inappropriate venue, since it was only filled to half-capacity.

In addition, sound systems and LCD screens did not work well in a large venue like My Dinh.

One audience member said, “Even when I found a place in the middle of the stadium I hardly felt any bass from the speakers. The LCD screens were also placed very low. It was hard for fans in my area to see the whole screen. A lack of good organization was what we experienced from the show.”

Nguyen Ngoc Quynh Huong, another fan from HCMC, said, “Fans are being blamed for the chaos at the stadium, but what about the organization of the event? If the sound was good and the screens were placed higher, we could have enjoyed the show without having to try to get closer to the stage.” 

Fans were also displeased with the event’s MC Ha Anh Tuan. Many complained that he was too inexperienced and boring to host a good show and failed to capture the attention of the audience when speaking about the concert’s aim – to raise awareness about human trafficking.

Some fans broke down in tears after struggling in the melee and accused organizers of failing to properly plan for the event.

Huong from HCMC also pointed out that organizers tried to copy the style of music shows in foreign countries like Thailand and Singapore. Unfortunately, it did not fit with Vietnamese style.

“Next time, organizers should think about installing more barriers to separate the standing area into several smaller grounds, and arrange more guards to monitor each group. Most importantly, organizers need to predict how fans will react during the concert,” said Nguyen Ngoc Nhi from Hanoi.

“Last but not least, the venue must have different lines for audiences to line up and enter the stadium, not like now when the doors simply open at once. It was like a race for fans to reach the stage,” Nhi added.
Concert’s aim misses mark

“The show failed to spread awareness about human trafficking and related projects, as the organizer, PR department, and performing artists did not cooperate well,” said one fan at the concert. “The organizer focused more on PR for the artists than on raising awareness about [human-trafficking prevention] projects in Vietnam.”

“In fact, most people came here to see their idols, not to [learn about human trafficking.] And after the show, the situation did not change. Due to the inexperience of the MC and the organizers, we are subsequently not more informed about MTV EXIT and their projects and are not interested in learning more.”

Following Hanoi, the MTV EXIT tour will move on to Ha Long Bay, Can Tho City and HCMC. Fans say they hope organizers will learn from the experience in the capital and make improvements for future shows. 

Related article:
Upcoming MTV concert tour aims to end human trafficking

Source: SGGP