South Sudan Set to Become World's Newest Country

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(JOHANNESBURG, South Africa) --  The streets of South Sudan's capital Juba were filled with people dancing with joy over the official announcement Monday that the proposed nation's independence referendum has passed, with more than 98 percent of southerners voting to secede.

In Khartoum, Sudan President Omar Al-Bashir and South Sudan President Salva Kiir were together as the official results were announced. Earlier, Bashir repeated that the Khartoum government will accept and support the results.

"Today we received these results and we accept and welcome these results because they represent the will of the southern people," Bashir said on state television.

The Obama administration also welcomed the results and congratulated both parties on a largely considered fair and peaceful vote.

"I am therefore pleased to announce the intention of the United States to formally recognize Southern Sudan as a sovereign, independent state in July 2011," President Obama said in a statement.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement that the United States would begin the process to remove Sudan from the state-sponsored terror list, a list that has resulted in the country being under strict economic sanctions for over a decade.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Former Ambassador Pickering: US Sentiments on Muslim Brotherhood

Photo Courtesy - ABC News (WASHINGTON) -- The certainty that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is leaving office has driven fears of who and what might replace him, including the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement that -- as President Obama put it Sunday -- has an “anti-U.S.” ideology and has announced that it plans to participate in the development of a new government.

Thomas Pickering -- who served as ambassador to the United Nations as well as Jordan and Israel -- told ABC News that while Americans should be concerned about the role the Muslim Brotherhood will play in the next Egyptian government, the organization is highly unlikely to wrest control.

“They should be concerned but we should not be panicked,” Pickering told ABC News. “They represent a group. They are divided into many different parts. They have radicals who speak of Islamic fundamentalist state as their objective. They have moderates who have even morphed off onto political parties....”

“The Muslim Brotherhood should participate, but obviously not as a majority,” he added. “And one would hope in free and fair elections the bulk of Egyptians would continue to support what the polls say to us they seem to believe.”

Concerns about what might come next, Pickering said, shouldn’t be used to justify Mubarak’s continued hold on power.

Other countries in the region -- chiefly Yemen, Jordan, and Sudan -- should be concerned about the fervor that’s engulfed Egypt spreading to them, Pickering said.

And the Israelis are particularly worried about the events in Egypt, since Mubarak’s Egypt has been a rare staunch ally in the Arab world.

“They're nervous,” Pickering said. “They're in some cases anguished about the situation. They fear contagion. But they also fear that somehow there will be enough change in Egypt to put in people who will radically wish to divorce themselves from the peace treaty with Egypt. I think that that's less likely.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Amanda Knox Felt Ill When She Saw Herself Portrayed in New Movie

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PERUGIA, Italy) -- Amanda Knox was shocked and hyperventilating when she saw a TV newscast in her Italian prison cell this weekend about Hayden Panetierre playing her in the Lifetime TV movie Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy.

The news report included disturbing clips from a movie trailer for the film, which includes a gritty portrayal of the murder of Knox's British roommate Meredith Kercher as well as sex scenes.

Knox's stepfather Chris Mellas told ABC News that in her weekly phone call home, Knox was emotional and said, "I was physically ill when I saw the images. I thought I was going to throw up."

Knox, who was 20 at the time of the murder, explained how strange it was to see a "girl who looked like her, dressed like her, playing her life," the stepfather said. Knox, who is now 23, fought back tears during the phone call, explaining her frustration with having no control over her life and how her life is being portrayed. Her family said she is not aware of the magnitude of the press surrounding her life, and that she avoids watching television and readings newspapers.

Knox's lawyers faxed, e-mailed and couriered Lifetime TV a formal complaint on Feb. 3. If Lifetime doesn't respond by Feb. 10, Knox's lawyers will take legal action, the complaint states.

The family of Amanda Knox tried to get Panettiere to meet with the imprisoned American before starring in the new Lifetime movie.

A trailer and images from a press screener for the Lifetime channel movie, which airs Feb. 21, debuted on the Internet recently and has upset both Knox's family as well as the family of Meredith Kercher, who Knox was convicted of killing. Kercher was stabbed to death in November, 2007.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Egypt: Google Manager and Activist Released By Government

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(CAIRO) -- A Google executive believed to be a key person in rallying demonstrations that have nearly toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, was released Monday after nearly two weeks in detention.

Wael Ghonim, a marketing manager at Google who disappeared more than a week ago, was freed Monday by the Egyptian government.  The longtime activist, who organized protests through social media, was captured by security forces on Jan. 28.

In one of his last tweets on Jan. 27, Ghonim expressed his strong passion against the current regime.  "Pray for #Egypt.  Very worried as it seems that government is planning a war crime tomorrow against people.  We are all ready to die," he wrote.

Dissenters who were taken into custody in recent days have emerged to describe scary details.  Al Jazeera English correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin, who was detained for a day, told ABC News that he was bound, blindfolded and threatened.  While he was in custody, he heard people being tortured in neighboring rooms.

"People who were sitting next to us who were in the crowd -- not journalists -- they were slapped, they were kicked, they were beaten," Mohyeldin said.  "I saw them use a great deal of violence against the people who were there."

New York Times reporter Nick Kulish, who was also detained, told ABC News he also heard people being tortured in neighboring rooms while he was in jail.

"We spoke to hundreds of people and they all said the same thing, which was you know, that police abuse, violence by the police was one of the things that they were fighting against," Kulish said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Australia Fires Devastate Perth

A home destroyed by a bush fire is seen on February 7, 2011 in Perth, Australia. Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PERTH, Australia) -- Firefighters near the western Australian city of Perth continue to battle bush fires that have ravaged the area and destroyed more than 60 homes, reports the BBC.

Hundreds of people have fled their homes as the area around the city has been declared a natural disaster zone. The flames have been exacerbated by winds in the region that are gusting up to 44 miles per hour. A Fire and Emergency Services Authority employee, however, has told affected residents that the wind is now working in favor of emergency workers.

The Australian government has pledged financial assistance to those affected as Prime Minister Julia Gillard says some have lost everything to the blaze.

Exactly one year ago, 173 people were killed in the southern state of Victoria when bush fires swept through the region. No serious injuries or fatalities have been reported in the Perth fires.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Egypt: Protester Says Negotiations Are a 'Trick'


(CAIRO) -- On Monday, I spoke with Abdul Rahman Yusuf, a poet and political activist who has been sleeping in Tahrir Square for 10 days.  He was also at Sunday's meeting with Vice President Omar Suleiman.

Yusuf said fellow activists in the Square asked him to go, but he made it clear in his comments immediately after their request, (and was quoted in local papers) saying that he did not speak for any movement, and made no deals.

This guy is no fake dissident or regime puppet; he's been on the front lines of the demonstrations, and said he would never forget the sound of a bullet hitting the guy next to him Wednesday night.  He also said he wouldn't leave the Square until President Hosni Mubarak was gone.

It's hard to overstate the distrust of President Mubarak and his cronies.

"It's a trick!  It's a trick!" one protestor passionately declared when he heard me talking about historic negotiations between the Mubarak administration and the opposition.  It's clear that President Mubarak's talks of reform are not enough for the protesters.

And while most Egyptians are heading back to "normal life," I get the sense that they are quietly happy that the hard core protesters remain in the square -- guardians of the revolution, in a sense.  In fact, it seemed on Monday that many people just wanted to show up in the Square and take a stroll there after work, in solidarity and approval.

But under that degree of normalcy, there's still a lot of tension here despite Sunday's negotiations.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sudan One Step Closer to Becoming Africa's Newest Nation

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(KHARTOUM, Sudan) -- Official results from South Sudan's vote last month are in, and one of Africa's largest and most volatile countries is one step closer to dividing into two nations.

The final results of last month's poll showed that nearly 99 percent of southerners voted for independence.

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir said he'll accept the vote peacefully.

But maintaining peace won't be easy.  More than 50 people have been killed over the last few days in border clashes, and issues of oil revenue sharing, demarcation and the status of the border region Abyei must be decided before Africa's largest country can officially become two.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Egypt: Protests Calmer, Less Tense; Normalcy Beginning to Return

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(CAIRO) -- The scene on Cairo's Tahrir Square remains almost jubilant Monday, with protesters content and pensive after demonstrations calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak have dominated the streets of Egypt for nearly two weeks.

According to ABC News correspondents in the country, the scene doesn't feel tense on the surface, and people are beginning to get "organized," even splitting the square into smoking and non-smoking sections.

Thousands of people still crowd the streets of Cairo, refusing to leave and voicing dissatisfaction that opposition leaders, who met with the government on Sunday, spoke for them. 

But the real reason why many protesters may not be leaving the Square is that they fear retribution.  It is almost certain that authorities and military intelligence are watching and filming the area, and people fear that if they leave the Square, they could be picked-up at home.

Meanwhile, throughout Cairo, there are more signs of life returning back to normal.  Banks and some businesses are open, as are coffee shops and some restaurants.  The streets are more crowded, with the telltale sounds of honking horns returning to the city.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sumo Tournament Canceled Amid Match-Fixing Allegations

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(TOKYO) -- The Japan Sumo Association announced Sunday it would cancel the Grand Tournament in Osaka next month for the first time in 65 years.

The announcement came just days after match-fixing allegations rocked the sumo world, and shook fans' confidence in a national sport already plagued by scandal.

“This has created a huge black eye for the sport’s storied history.  We sincerely apologize to our fans,” Sumo Association Chairman Hanaregoma said, as he bowed deeply at a press conference.

Cancellation of the upcoming tournament marks the first time a sumo match has been called off because of a scandal.  Back in 1946, the summer tournament was cancelled after repairs to a sumo arena damaged during World War II couldn’t be completed in time.

Allegations of match-fixing first surfaced last week, after police found text messages orchestrating the fights on phones confiscated from wrestlers.  Fourteen wrestlers and their elders stand accused of orchestrating the matches, and three have confessed to doing so. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Extradition Hearing Begins for WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange

Photo Courtesy - Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- A two-day hearing for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange kicked off Monday as Swedish authorities seek his extradition in connection to sex crime allegations.

Assange appeared at the Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court in London to fight extradition from the United Kingdom to Sweden, where two women have accused him of sexual assault.

During the two-day hearing, Assange's lawyers will strongly argue that he should not be extradited because he has not been charged with a crime.  As such, they say, it's an abuse of the European Arrest Warrant.

His legal team also contends Swedish prosecutors are politically-motivated to get to Assange after he published thousands of classified documents that have proved to be embarrassing to a number of governments.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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