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Friday
Feb112011

Egypt: Hosni Mubarak Steps Down as President

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CAIRO) -- Egypt's embattled President Hosni Mubarak abruptly stepped down as president, ending his 30-year-reign, and Egyptian armed forces will take over the leadership of the country, vice president Omar Suleiman announced Friday.

Crowds gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square erupted into loud cheers, chanting "Egypt is free," as the historic announcement was made.

"My fellow citizens. In this difficult time that the country is going through, the president Mohamed Hosni Mubarak has decided to relieve himself of his position as president and the Supreme military council has taken control of the state's affairs. May God protect us," Suleiman said during his somber one-minute announcement on TV.

Mubarak left the presidential palace in Cairo earlier Friday as protesters kept the pressure on the government to force Mubarak out of office.

Sources tell ABC News that the 82-year-old president has gone to an estate he owns in Sharm el-Sheikh, a resort town on the Red Sea about 250 miles from the protests in Cairo. Mubarak told ABC News last week he may eventually retire to the resort town, but vowed never to leave Egypt.

A senior Egyptian official told ABC News Mubarak's departure from the palace was intended to be symbolic, as well a visual withdrawal from the political process after having handed over most of his authority to Vice President Omar Suleiman. But the move does not preclude him from returning or inhibit his ability to oversee constitutional amendments, the official said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb112011

Egypt: Deposed Mubarak May Retain Vast Wealth

Photo Courtesy - The White House | Pete Souza(CAIRO) -- Though Egypt's Hosni Mubarak stepped down from the presidency, leaving Cairo for a resort town, experts say his personal wealth will likely remain intact in other countries.

Sources told ABC News that Mubarak left Cairo for a town called Sharm el-Sheikh, 250 miles away on the Red Sea. Mubarak, however, has vowed never to leave Egypt.

Protestors have long demanded that Mubarak be tried for his corruption, though it is too early to tell what will happen to him. Meanwhile there are reports that Mubarak is occupying an entire floor of one of the many hotels in Sharm el-Sheikh, according to Christopher Davidson, professor of Middle East Politics at Durham University in England.

The Swiss government said Friday it is freezing any money belonging to Mubarak or his family in Switzerland.

But Davidson said the former president's wealth in real estate around the world will be more difficult to seize.

"I think it will be only a small part of the cake," said Davidson. "And I reckon it's not his entire wealth."

The Mubarak family's wealth was built largely from military contracts during his days as an air force officer, according to experts. He eventually diversified his investments through his family when he became president in 1981. The family's net worth may be as much as $40 billion, by some estimates.

Amaney Jamal, a political science professor at Princeton, said the estimates are comparable with the vast wealth of leaders in other Gulf countries.

Jamal said that Mubarak's assets are most likely in banks outside of Egypt, possibly in the United Kingdom and Switzerland.

"This is the pattern of other Middle Eastern dictators so their wealth will not be taken during a transition," she said. "These leaders plan on this."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb112011

US-Cuban Relations Ease Another Notch

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(HAVANA) -- Cuba has stopped flying black flags in front of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana, the latest step towards dismantling an in-your-face confrontation that arose around the building during the George W. Bush administration and brought always-contentious relations between the two countries to the breaking point.

Former Cuban President Fidel Castro ordered the parking lot in front of the U.S. Interests Section dug up and the 100-foot-high flags installed in 2006.

The action came after the United States turned on a five-foot-high news ticker that ran across 25 windows on the outside of the fifth floor of the mission on Havana's busy seaside Malecon Drive.

The Times Square-style ticker streamed news, political statements and messages in crimson letters blaming Cuba's problems on the country's communist system and socialist economy.

The dozens of huge black flags, which Cuba said represented more than 3,000 of its citizens killed over the years by U.S. inspired violence, effectively blocked it from view.

The bizarre scene, as the two old nemeses symbolically squared off in Havana, became a tourist attraction and barometer of the rising level of hostility between them.

The two countries do not have full diplomatic relations, but maintain lower level interests sections in each other's capitals.

"They stopped flying the flags completely at least two weeks ago," a U.S. diplomat said, adding he had no idea if the measure was permanent.

The Cuban government hasn't commented on the flags disappearance. The huge -- and now barren -- field of flag poles remains standing and at the ready where cars once parked just yards from the building's front door.

Soon after the Obama administration took over in Washington, anti-Bush billboards around the building, depicting the former U.S. president as Dracula, Hitler and a terrorist, were taken down.

The news ticker went dark in June 2009 and the government of Raul Castro, who replaced his brother in 2008, responded by reducing the size and number of flags, but still kept some flying.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb112011

Portrait of Mutilated Afghan Woman Wins World Press Photo Award

Ayesha seen here in before and after file photos was the subject of photojournalist Jodie Bieber's award-winning photo (not shown). Photo Courtesy - ABC News (KABUL, Afghanistan) -- A photo of the mutilated face of Ayesha, an Afghan woman whose nose and ears were cut off by members of the Taliban, has been awarded a top photography prize, the World Press Photo award for 2010.

The portrait by South African photojournalist Jodi Bieber was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine in August 2010, with Ayesha's piercing eyes staring directly into the camera over a hole in her face where her nose was removed. The cover set off wide debate over whether the image was too graphic for a mainstream magazine -- or too powerful to hide.

Bieber will receive a cash prize of 10,000 euros (about $13,500) for her work, which beat out over 100,000 images from nearly 6,000 photographers around the world.

The story of Ayesha has drawn global attention to the the plight of Afghan women. The 18-year-old woman, once known simply as "Bibi," was brutalized by her own husband, a member of the Taliban.

Ayesha was married when she was just 12 years old. She endured years of abuse. At times she was forced to sleep in the stables with animals. After she tried to run away, she was caught, and the village men handed down their sentence. Ayesha's husband sliced off her nose and ears while his brother held her down.

Left for dead, she managed to crawl to her uncle's house, but he refused to help her. Ayesha kept on until a relative finally took her to a hospital run by an American military medical team. The hospital cared for her for more than two months, ensured her safety, and gave her something she had not received before -- kindness.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Friday
Feb112011

Egypt: Jubilation In Cairo As Transition Begins To Take Shape

Photo Courtesy - Getty ImagesREPORTER'S NOTEBOOK
By AARON KATERSKY, ABC News


(CAIRO) -- As you cross the Nile Bridge into Tahrir Square, you are carried along by a sea of humanity: red, white and black Egyptian flags are being held high, people are singing and chanting and hugging -- celebrating the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak after 30 years in power here.

You can hear the celebration echoing all throughout downtown. Horns are honking, people are cheering all over Cairo.

The army is now in control. That's not what the demonstrators wanted, but they now hope a new era of democracy can be ushered in here in Egypt. There are many uncertainties ahead. Will the army usher in the democratic reforms these demonstrators have been seeking or will they seek to preserve a system which has served the generals well for six decades?  The answer, thus far, is unknown.

But for now, it feels like the entire city of Cairo is out partying.  A river of people, crossing the Nile Bridge into Tahrir Square. Many are hugging each other, children are on their parents' shoulders, waving Egyptian flags -- young and old, all walks of life, celebrating a moment many of them thought they could never live to see.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb112011

Mandela 'Doing Alright' on 21st Anniversary of Prison Release

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(JOHANNESBURG) -- South African President Jacob Zuma said Nelson Mandela is receiving good medical care at home and urged respect for his privacy as he recovers from the acute respiratory infection which he was hospitalized for last month. Zuma spoke of Mandela’s condition during his annual State of the Union Address Thursday night.

"We need to accept the reality that President Mandela, who is loved by all of us, young and old, men and women, black and white, is not young anymore," Zuma said. "He will, from time to time, visit medical facilities for checkups, which is normal for a person of his age. We should allow him to do so with dignity, and give the family and the medical team the space to look after him, on our behalf, in privacy."

Mandela’s grandson, Mandla, said his grandfather was “doing alright,” and thanked the South African people for their prayers and contribution in ensuring Madiba “gets better.” Zinzi Mandela told a local news station that the family will gather at her father’s home in Johannesburg for a private celebration Friday honoring the 21st anniversary of  the icon’s release from Victor Verster prison after serving  27 years under the apartheid government, most of which were spent in Robben Island prison.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb112011

Egyptian Military: Emergency Law Will Be Lifted After Protests End

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(CAIRO) -- The Egyptian military announced in a statement over State TV Friday that the emergency law will be lifted, but only after the current crisis in the country ends.

Egypt's emergency law gives more power to authorities and imposes on the people's constitutional rights and freedom to assemble.  It has been a hated thing in Egypt and a central part of criticism of the country's human rights record for three decades.

The military said the law will no longer be in effect once demonstrations end, asking protesters to go back to normal life.

The military also stated that there will be free and fair presidential elections and that they will carry out constitutional changes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb112011

Pakistan Resists U.S. Pressure; Continues to Detain Raymond Davis

Photo Courtesy - Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images(LAHORE, Pakistan) -- If there was any question that Pakistan intended to bow to U.S. demands and release diplomat Raymond Davis quickly, the answer is an emphatic no.

The U.S. wanted Davis released before his court appearance Friday, but a Pakistani court said he would remain detained for two more weeks.  Davis has been in a police station since he was charged with the murder of two men working for Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI.  He will now be moved to a jail.

Lahore's police chief accused Davis Friday of "intentional and cold blooded murder."  In other words, stating that Davis didn't act in self-defense, as the U.S. claims.

On another note, a judge requested the foreign office to declare once and for all whether Davis has diplomatic immunity.

Davis' continuing detention and his move to a prison could further enrage the United States, which has already threatened the Pakistani government with closing consulates and canceling major bilateral meetings next month if Davis isn't set free.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb102011

Obama's Sudan Envoy to be Nominated for New Post in Kenya

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) - In a move that has been rumored for some time, Scott Gration, President Obama’s Special Envoy to Sudan and a longtime advisor, will be nominated as the next ambassador to Kenya.

“He is very enthusiastic about the challenge there in deepening democracy and also dealing with the spillover effects in Somalia,” State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley told ABC News.

The change comes as Sudan peacefully wrapped up a referendum last month that will result in Southern Sudan forming its own country.

“The referendum represented a perfect time to transition to a new special envoy,” Crowley said.

During his tenure, Gration clashed with other top officials in the administration, particularly United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice. In 2009, Gration refused to characterize the violence in Darfur as an ongoing genocide, touching off a major debate within the administration.

Gration also came under heat from advocacy groups when he focused more on the Southern Sudan referendum than on Darfur. There is no word yet on who will replace him.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb102011

Former Chile President Sued over 2010 Earthquake, Tsunami

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SANTIAGO, Chile) - Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile, has been sued by victims of last year's earthquake who allege she made mistakes regarding the country's warning system prior to the resulting tsunami.

The government had lifted their initial tsunami warning after the country was stuck by a 8.8-magnitude earthquake. A lawyer for the victims claims that Bachelet "made decisions she was not qualified to make."

At stake? The lawsuit aims to ban Bachelet and other defendants from serving in a future public office. Others named in the suit include former Interior Minister Edmundo Perez and former Defense Minister Francisco Vidal.

The February 27 earthquake and tsunami claimed more than 500 lives. Bachelet left her post just a month after the disaster.
 
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