Colombian government holds peace talk with FARC in Oslo

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The Colombian government and Marxist rebels are set to hold peace talks in Norway aimed at ending nearly half a century of conflict.

President Juan Manuel Santos has made the latest attempt to negotiate a deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas after recent criticism on security issues, although there have been improvements over the last decade helped by a US backed offensive against the rebels and drug barons.

Before boarding the plane with the rest of his team in Bogota, the government’s chief negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, said he was optimistic.

“We don’t believe in false expectations but I think the structural elements exist that will allow us to have hope, and hopefully we will have good news for Columbia.”

There was a reported conflict over the composition of the FARC delegation especially the inclusion of Dutch National, Tanja Nijmeijer.

Interpol said Colombia had asked for the lifting of so-called “red-notices”, much like arrest warrants, on several FARC members, but Colombia only controls its own notices and Nijmeijer is also wanted in the US so it could not be lifted.

She is not therefore expected to attend the preliminary meetings in Norway but should be at the table when the talks move to Cuba shortly afterwards, where the focus is expected to be on land, drugs and political participation.

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Pope calls for peace on last day in Lebanon

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On the last day of the Pope Benedict’s visit to Lebanon, he celebrated an open-air mass in front of around 350,000 pilgrims, as well as politicians from all sectors of the multi-faith country.

 

The pilgrims had come to Beirut from across the Middle East, where the service was held at an altar built on land reclaimed with debris from Lebanon’s 1975-1990 sectarian civil war.

 

The crowd cheered and waved Vatican as well as Lebanese flags as the Pope gave a speech in which he appealed for tolerance and religious freedom and for reconciliation between Christians and Muslims.

 

These have been the central themes of the visit which comes amid soaring sectarian tensions in the region, exacerbated by the conflict in Syria.

 

The pope also called on Christians not to leave the region despite war and growing pressure from radical Islamists.

 

 

Argentina: Thousands attend anti-Fernandez rallies


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Tens of thousands took to the streets of Argentina’s largest cities on Thursday, in protest against the policies of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

The rallies, which were organised over social media, were far more widespread than similar ones in June. Among their grievances protesters named; strict currency controls, high crime rates and a rumoured change to the constitution which would allow President Fernandez to serve a third term.

Following her first four year term the President won a landslide re-election in October, but her approval ratings have since plummeted.

Her policies have effectively created multiple exchange rates, which threaten to depress investment to Latin America’s third largest economy and increase inflation which is already estimated at around 25 percent a year.

Anti-US clashes continue in Cairo

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Anti-US protests sparked by an American made film which mocks the Prophet Muhammad continued in Cairo on Friday.

After clashes at the US embassy in Cairo earlier in the week, President Barrack Obama described the US-Egyptian relationship as a work in progress, and said he sees Egypt neither as an ally nor an enemy.

Under ousted autocratic President, Hosni Mubarak, the United States was a close ally of the country and gives assistance including over a billion dollars of military aid each year.

Violent Anti-American protests started across the Middle-East and North Africa following the release of the anti-Islamic film.

On Tuesday the storming of the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, resulted in the death of the US ambassador.