October 30th, 2007 15:10 EST
A Quick Look At World Affairs
LONDON, Great Britain. The history of diplomacy knows such cases when petty squabbles can instigate major conflicts. Fortunately, the latest gaffe of the leader of the British Conservative Party, David Cameron, will probably be soon forgotten. Nevertheless, his comments on “one-legged Lithuanian lesbians", who are supposedly receiving money from the Arts Council, sparked a harsh diplomatic note issued by a Lithuanian ambassador to Great Britain. According to the Agence France Presse, Ambassador Vygaudas Usackas was to write in the note: “It would be incredibly helpful to understand exactly what you meant when referring to 'Lithuanians' and how this relates, if at all, to the Arts Council.” David Cameron's office has expressed regret over the comment, insisting that the newspaper, which published his words, must have misinterpreted him. Since Lithuania joined the European Union in 2004 and the British labor market opened for new members, up to 100,000 Lithuanians have arrived in Great Britain looking for better-paying jobs.
MOSCOW, Russia. Russia hardly ever denounces its former leaders, today's anniversary being an exception rather than the rule. In front of hundreds of people gathered at a memorial service in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin marked the 70th anniversary of purges that claimed millions of people. By a direct order of Joseph Stalin – the infamous leader of the Soviet Union from 1924 to 1953 – the country's secret service arrested and later executed everyone who came under even the slightest suspicion. According to the Associated Press, President Putin was to say that in 1937 “[h]undreds of thousands, millions of people were killed and sent to camps, shot and tortured.” The country's communist past has been haunting Russians since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. A number of crimes from that dark period remains unsolved, the purges of 1937 being only one of the most visible examples. Russian authorities still have not acknowledged Stalin's responsibility for the execution of over 14,000 Polish officers in the 1940s.
Joseph Stalin died in 1953, ending the most brutal period in Russian history. It is estimated that during his reign, between 20 to 40 million people lost their lives. AMERICAS
New York, United States. The United States should end its economic and commercial embargo on Cuba, decided the U.N. General Assembly. It's been the 16th time, when the U.N. member countries have voted overwhelmingly against Washington's long-term policy towards the island. This time, out of 192 states which constitute the assembly, only four stood by the United States – one fewer than last year. Such a result was possible due to the fact that the majority of the U.N. members are the Third World countries, which perceive America is imperial power blocking their development. The embargo has been in effect since 1961 – two years after Fidel Castro orchestrated a military coup against the pro-American Batista regime. When the country became communist, Washington decided to isolate the island, hoping that the deteriorating economy would turn the Cuban people against the new ruler.
CARACAS, Venezuela. It may be a diplomatic mission no less difficult than the one in Iraq. Today, Ambassador Patrick Duddey met with Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, to officially start his tenure as the U.S. representative to this South American country. Although the relations between the two states could hardly be worse, the ambassador hopes they will work in unison when it comes to such problems as fighting drug trafficking. Local media cite Patrick Duddey as saying, “I hope to work in this beautiful country for the well-being of both of our sister nations. I think it was a good start.” Venezuela has been the staunchest opponent of the United Nations in the Western Hemisphere since socialist Hugo Chavez was elected president in 1998. Since then, the country has gradually veered from democracy, turning into a one-man dictatorship in the mold of Fidel Castro's Cuba.
AFRICA LAGOS, Nigeria. The families of the foreign oil workers, who were abducted on Friday in Nigeria, can finally breathe a sigh of relief. The kidnapped six were released unconditionally today and remain in good health, informed a spokesperson of the Italian company which owns the oil platform. Among those who were freed are Polish and Indian nationals. Press releases from Friday spoke also of several Filipinos, but this news has not been confirmed.
In the past 12 months, there have been a series of kidnappings in the Nigeria's Delta Region, where most of the country's oil platforms are located. Although oil prices are soaring, only a small fraction of the Nigerian people have felt any change in their material situation. By abducting foreign workers, various rebel groups try to force the corrupted federal government to share a bigger portion of oil revenues with all the regions. N'DJAMENA, Chad. Six French nationals, seven Spaniards and one Belgian were arrested in Chad, on charges of kidnapping children and trying to fly them to Europe. The detainees have been working for a humanitarian agency that is taking care of thousands of refugees from Darfur who are now living in numerous camps in neighboring Chad. According to the Chadian authorities, the accused intended to smuggle over one hundred African children to Europe and probably sell them to pedophiles. Some of the children were of Chadian citizenship and had been bought from their parents. The arrested Europeans reject the charges, saying that their only goal was to take the children to foster families in France and elsewhere in Europe. The Associated Press quotes Chad's Interior Minister as saying that “if the six [French nationals] were found guilty, they would face up to 20 years in jail with hard labor.”
In the last several years, hundreds of thousands of people have fled the war-shattered Sudanese province of Darfur and sought shelter in neighboring Chad. ASIA
BEJING, China. Rarely does Canada get involved in an international dispute, but today it has sparked a strong criticism from one of the world's most powerful countries. The reason was Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's meeting with Dalai Lama. The latter, being the spiritual leader of Tibet, is regarded by Beijing as “a dangerous separatist who advocates Tibetan independence.” On the other hand, Harper described the 40-minute meeting as “historic” and thanked his guest for visiting Canada.
Despite China's opposition, the Canadian leader has been another foreign statesman to receive Dalai Lama. Among those who have met with the Tibetan Nobel Peace Prize winner this year are George W. Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Australian Prime Minister John Howard. Each time, the Chinese foreign ministry informed the host that “China expresses its strong dissatisfaction and opposition to that.”
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