Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas was to take the place of his mentor President Yasser Arafat as the Palestinian guest in the White House yesterday, initiating a new phase in Palestinian relations with the US. \nArafat, who has been cooped up for months in the West Bank town of Ramallah, has not been to Washington since US President George W. Bush took office in January 2001. Bush declared him persona non grata last year and has now pinned his plans for Middle East peace on Abbas, better known as Abu Mazen. \nIt is Abu Mazen's first visit to the US since taking office in April and starting to carry out the peace plan known as the "road map," which foresees an independent Palestinian state by 2005 living in peace with Israel. \nThe plan has run into disputes over which side should do what next. Abu Mazen wants Israel to release thousands of Palestinian prisoners, while Israel wants Abu Mazen to close down Palestinian militant groups. \nAbu Mazen was expected to present Bush with a long list of Palestinian requests yesterday, including pressure on Israel to stop work on a security fence in the West Bank and freeze construction at Jewish settlements. \nIsraeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will give his point of view when he sees Bush in Washington next Tuesday. \nAbu Mazen told the Council on Foreign Relations on Thursday evening that Israel's approach to the peace plan had shown a "pattern of hesitant implementation" from the start. \n"Without bold steps we will not succeed," he added. \nHe argued that militant groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad understood his commitment to ensure that the Palestinian government is the only armed force in Palestinian areas. \nBut he is reluctant to meet Israeli and US demands that he disarm the militants so they never attack Israelis again. \nHe warned the Israelis of unspecified consequences if they do not satisfy the basic Palestinian demand that they end the occupation which began in Gaza and the West Bank in 1967. \n"The burden really is on the shoulders of the Israelis ... and there are certain things that we expect them to do regarding the release of the prisoners, regarding the freezing of settlement activity, as well as the withdrawal. \n"If Israel is not going to do this, then it is basically reaffirming and reinforcing the occupation, and we all know if occupation is to continue what can happen," he said. \nThe US sympathizes with Abu Mazen on Jewish settlements and the security fence, which the Palestinian leader brought up several times in his talks. \n"There's not a lot of enthusiasm in this town for a fence ... This is a real issue, or it has the makings of becoming a real issue [between Israel and the United States], were the fence to follow the route that many people say it will," said a senior US official, who asked not to be named. \nSo far the US has concentrated on persuading Israel to dismantle small settler outposts in the West Bank but another official said this could change. \n"We are also getting to the point of taking up the issue of settlements per se and growth," the official said. \nIsrael has argued that settlements should be allowed to expand to take account of demographic growth but the text of the road map says all settlement activity should cease.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
WARNINGS OVER COMPLACENCY: The curves of new infections in numerous countries is climbing, while others see the the first new infections in months Spikes in COVID-19 infections in Asia have dispelled any notion that the region might be over the worst, with Australia and India yesterday reporting record daily infections, Vietnam fretting over a new surge and North Korea urging vigilance. Asian nations had largely prided themselves on rapidly containing initial outbreaks after the coronavirus emerged in central China late last year, but flare-ups this month have shown the danger of complacency. “We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. Australia recorded its
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable