The world at a glance . . . International
Climate treaty abandoned: Next month’s Copenhagen summit on climate change will not produce a legally binding treaty, world leaders conceded this week at an Asian regional summit. Negotiators are deadlocked: Developing nations want reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to be voluntary, while the U.S. and other developed countries insist they be mandatory. Still, even if they had agreed, the U.S. wouldn’t have been able to sign a treaty because Congress hasn’t yet passed climate legislation. After meeting with President Obama and other leaders in Singapore, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen announced that the Copenhagen summit would produce no treaty, but he insisted that the “politically binding” pact would not be just a “tiny steppingstone.”
Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan
A kinder, gentler prison? Conditions are about to get better for the 700 Afghans held without charges at the U.S. military prison at Bagram. Military officials announced that they are opening a new, bigger prison with rooms for family visits, medical checkups, vocational classes, and even trials. The new facility also has separate areas to house hard-core insurgents, so they can’t indoctrinate other Afghans. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, recommended such changes earlier this year, saying the existing prisons were breeding grounds for terrorism. “This facility and these reintegration programs represent real progress,” said Brig. Gen. Mark S. Martins, “and in the coming months and years they will promote transparency and legitimacy.”
Elections in jeopardy: Iraq may not hold parliamentary elections next January after all, now that Sunnis and Kurds have raised last-minute objections to the new election law. The law, which dictates how seats will be allocated and votes counted, was passed earlier this month after painstaking negotiations. But Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi is threatening to veto it because it makes no provision for Iraqi refugees, mainly Sunnis, who fled abroad. And Kurdish officials say they will urge Kurds to boycott the vote unless Kurdish provinces are given more seats. An election delay would force a delay in pulling out U.S. troops. The Obama administration wants U.S. troops to wait 60 days after the election to start drawing down, to make sure that the country is stable.
Taking it to the U.N.: Palestinians plan to ask the U.N. Security Council to declare a Palestinian state without Israel’s consent, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said this week. Abbas said that the impasse in negotiations with Israel left Palestinians no choice but to try to move ahead without Israel’s cooperation. The Arab League backed that approach, but Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, voiced its opposition. “The proclamation of a Palestinian state should be the result of the resistance putting an end to the occupation,” said Khaled Meshaal, the exiled Hamas leader. In any event, an appeal to the U.N. is certain to fail, as the U.S., France, and Britain—which each have veto power on the Security Council—insist that the question of Palestinian statehood be part of an overall peace settlement with Israel.
Soldiers refuse orders: In a sign of growing right-wing influence in Israel’s army, soldiers have begun refusing to dismantle illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank. At least six soldiers will be court-martialed, officials said this week. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the rebellion in the strongest of terms, saying the refusal to follow direct orders could “bring about the collapse of the state.” But other politicians support the soldiers. Right-wing parties proposed a bill to prevent the army from forcing soldiers to evacuate West Bank settlements. Israel’s army should not be “turned into a contractor for the demolition and evacuation of Jewish communities,” said the bill’s co-sponsor, Aryeh Eldad of the National Union party.
Arabic on the Internet: Egypt is launching the world’s first Arabic-language Internet domain. The new domain suffix will be “.masr”—which means “.Egypt”—written in the Arabic alphabet. “It is a great moment for us,” said Egyptian communications minister Tamek Kamel. “The Internet now speaks Arabic.” But press-freedom activists warn that content in the new domain would likely be censored. “The fact that Egypt is launching this Arabic domain is ironic, really,” said Soazig Dollet of Reporters Without Borders. “Egypt is one of the enemies of the Internet.” The international Internet regulatory body, Icann, voted last month to allow use of non-Latin characters in Web addresses.