The news at a glance...International
Tripoli, LibyaAbandoned by Russia: Pressure mounted on Muammar al-Qaddafi this week as NATO warplanes pounded his headquarters and Russian leaders joined calls for him to step down. Russia had abstained from the March U.N. Security Council vote that authorized NATO intervention in Libya, and up until last week had strongly criticized the bombing of Tripoli as an attempt at regime change beyond the scope of the U.N. mandate. But now Russian President Dmitri Medvedev says the brutal crackdown on Libyan protesters shows Qaddafi has “forfeited his right” to govern. Russia sent an envoy to Tripoli this week to try to negotiate Qaddafi’s exit.
Jisr al-Shughour, SyriaArmed clashes: More than 100 Syrian troops were killed when fighting erupted in a northern Syrian city this week. Everyone agrees that troops were sent to Jisr al-Shughour after the city held a large anti-government protest, but accounts differ about what happened next. The government said “hundreds of armed militants” attacked the troops, but an opposition group said the dead were Syrian army defectors who refused to fire on civilians and were then killed by their officers. Others said both accounts had elements of truth, as some soldiers had defected and some civilians had taken up arms. The city has a history of anti-government sentiment. In 1980, President Bashar al-Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad, crushed an uprising there, killing dozens.
Baghdad Five U.S. soldiers killed: The U.S. military suffered the deadliest attack against its forces in Iraq in more than two years this week when rockets struck a base in Baghdad, killing five American soldiers. It was the latest in a series of insurgent attacks launched as the Iraqi government discusses whether to retain a U.S. security force past the end of this year, when all 46,000 U.S. troops are scheduled to leave. “The purpose of these attacks is to pressure the U.S. administration, through the American public, so that they do not tolerate the loss of more American soldiers,” said Hamid Fadhel, a professor of politics at Baghdad University. Two weeks ago, anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose party is part of the coalition government, marched his Mahdi Army militants through Baghdad’s Sadr City, demanding a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces.
Fukushima, Japan Radioactive mess: Treatment plants are running out of room to store sewage contaminated by radiation, Japanese authorities said this week. Radiation from Fukushima apparently seeped into sewage pipes and ended up at treatment plants as far away as Tokyo. Treated sewage sludge is normally shipped to cement processors, where it is burned and the ash used for cement. But processors won’t take the radioactive sludge, so it is just piling up. Meanwhile, authorities said they would make the nuclear watchdog agency independent from the ministry that promotes nuclear energy. The International Atomic Energy Agency says Japan’s lack of adequate regulatory oversight left its nuclear plants underprepared for emergencies like the March earthquake and tsunami.
Seoul Gunsights on Kim: North Korea cut off all dialogue with the South Korean government this week after learning that the South Korean army was using photographs of North Korean rulers for target practice. South Korean newspapers reported last week that several infantry training camps had used as targets pictures of the dictator Kim Jong Il; his son and heir apparent, Kim Jong Un; and his late father, Kim Il Sung. The army said the targets were intended to “boost battle spirit” in the wake of belligerent actions by the North, including the bombardment of a South Korean island and the sinking of a warship. It said it would stop using the photographs.