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Beijing: (Agencies:21/2/2009):  US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has met Chinese civil society leaders in Beijing, as she concluded her first foreign trip as top US diplomat. 

Amnesty International and a pro-Tibet group voiced shock Friday after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed not to let human rights concerns hinder cooperation with China. 

On the third and final day of her stay in China had  meetings with China’s leaders to urge stronger US-China ties.  

She said bilateral co-operation on global issues such as climate change and the economy was "imperative".
 These would take precedence over points of friction between the two governments, such as human rights and Tibet, she added. 

Students for a Free Tibet said Clinton’s remarks sent the wrong signal to China at a sensitive time.

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Manila: (Agencies: 9/2/2009): After three years of exploratory talks, the Philippines and the European Union will formally start on Monday the first round of negotiations for an expanded bilateral agreement, which aims to open greater economic, political, security and social cooperation between Manila and Europe, the Philippine government said Sunday.

Since 2006, the Philippines and the EU began informal talks on a draft agreement, known as Partnership Cooperation Agreement (PCA), and exchanged views on specific areas such as trade, human rights, migration, security, intellectual property, counter-terrorism and the role of civil society, the Department of Foreign Affairs statement said in a statement.

The EU is the 4th largest trading partner of the Philippines, accounting for 14 percent of total trade. It is also the largest foreign investor in the Philippines and the 4th largest source of official development assistance ODA).

"The European Union is highly significant to the Philippines," the statement said.

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Munich, Germany: (Agencies: 7/2/2009): The EU’s top executive angered Prime Minister Vladimir Putin while standing next to him at a news conference on Friday by raising concerns about the murders of Russian human rights activists and journalists in Moscow.

Their acrimonious exchange came after meetings, on the sidelines of the 45th session of the security conference underway in Munich. The meeting between the two men was  intended to improve European Union-Russian relations, badly scarred by the Georgia war and last month’s cutoff of Russian natural gas supplies to Europe.

Both Putin and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said their talks were constructive and set a positive tone for negotiations on a long-awaited EU-Russia partnership agreement.

But the atmosphere soured after Barroso mentioned that he had raised the issue of Russia’s problems with the rule of law in his meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev earlier Friday.

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UN: 4 February 2009 – Four years after a peace accord ended two decades of north-south civil war in Sudan, the overall security situation remains fragile and unpredictable as a 2011 referendum looms on whether the South should secede or remain united with the rest of the country, according to a United Nations report released today.

“With little over two years of the interim period remaining, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) has reached a critical juncture where any action or inaction on its provisions will have a profound impact on the future of the Sudan,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in his report to the Security Council.

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JERUSALEM, Jan 30 (Reuters) Israel said on Friday the Spanish government had said it would work to amend a law under which a Madrid court is to consider trying seven Israelis over the killing of Palestinians.  

‘s High Court announced this week it would launch a war crimes investigation into an Israeli ex-defense minister and six other top security officials for their role in a 2002 attack that killed a Hamas commander and 14 civilians in Gaza. 

Spanish law allows the prosecution of foreigners for such crimes as genocide, crimes against humanity and torture committed anywhere in the world.  

"I was just told by the Spanish foreign minister that Spain decided to change the legislation," Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told journalists after a telephone conversation with her Spanish counterpart Miguel Angel Moratinos. 

"In order to change the possibility of different organisations, political organisations, to abuse the legal system in Spain in order to put charges against Israelis and others that are fighting terror."

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UNITED NATIONS (Agencies: 27/1/2009):  UN humanitarian chief John Holmes appealed to Israel to re-open border crossings into the besieged Gaza Strip to allow delivery of badly needed relief aid in the wake of the devastating 22-day conflict.

"Israel has a particular responsibility as the occupying power in this context, because of its control of Gaza’s borders with Israel, to respect the relevant provisions of international humanitarian law," Holmes told the 15-member UN Security Council during a briefing on his recent visit to the region. 

"It is therefore critical that new steps are taken immediately by the Israeli authorities to move to the sustained re-opening of crossing points," he said.

He underscored the importance of improving the living conditions of Gaza’s 1.5 million people to avoid further despair and undermining efforts to find a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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New York, Jan 20: The inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States should usher in a new era of reformed counter-terrorism policies, Human Rights Watch has said.President Obama should immediately renounce the Bush administration’s abusive approach to fighting terrorism and embrace new policies that respect basic rights, Human Rights Watch observed. 

”The policies of the last seven-and-a-half years have not only damaged the reputation of the US as a nation that adheres to the rule of law, but they have undermined Washington’s ability to effectively fight terror,” said Joanne Mariner, Terrorism and Counter-terrorism director at Human Rights Watch. 

”We expect President Obama to take rapid steps to change course to close Guantanamo, end the military commissions, and abolish the CIA’s abusive detention programme.” According to news reports, Mr. Obama plans to issue an executive order in his first days in office mandating that the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay be closed. Human Rights Watch called on the new administration to bring federal charges against those detainees implicated in serious criminal acts, and to release those it does not plan to charge.

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Jerusalem: (Reuters: 19/1/2009): Human rights group Amnesty International accused Israel of war crimes on Monday, saying its use of white phosphorus munitions in densely populated areas of Gaza was indiscriminate and illegal. Skip related content. 

White phosphorus is a high-incendiary substance that burns very brightly and for long periods. It frequently is used to produce smoke screens, but can also be used as a weapon, producing extreme burns if it makes contact with skin.

"Such extensive use of this weapon in Gaza’s densely populated residential neighborhoods is inherently indiscriminate," Donatella Rovera, a Middle East researcher with Amnesty International, said in a statement. 

"Its repeated use in this manner, despite evidence of its indiscriminate effects and its toll on civilians, is a war crime," she said.

Use of white phosphorus is not prohibited under international law, but the indiscriminate use of any weapon in an area crowded with civilians could be used as the basis to make war crimes charges, legal experts have said.

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JERUSALEM –(Agencies:  18/1/2009) Israel declared a unilateral cease-fire in the Gaza Strip on Sunday meant to end three devastating weeks of war against Hamas militants, but just hours later militants fired a volley of rockets into southern Israel, officials said, threatening to reignite the violence.

No one was injured in the assault in which five rockets were fired and four landed. But shortly afterward, security sources in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun reported an airstrike that wounded a woman and her child. The Israeli military had no comment. 

In another incident after the truce took hold, militants fired small arms at an infantry patrol, which directed artillery and aircraft to strike back, the military said.

"Israel will only act in response to attacks by Hamas, either rockets into Israel or firing upon our forces," government spokesman Mark Regev said. "If Hamas does deliberately torpedo this cease-fire, they are exposing themselves before the entire international community as a group of cynical extremists that have absolutely no interest in the well-being of the people of Gaza."

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GAZA: (Agencies: 19/1/2009): Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said on Sunday that Israel’s three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip was a failure and had not cowed the Palestinians, but praised his movement for deciding to declare a cease-fire. 

The enemy has failed to achieve its goals," Ismail Haniyeh, the top Hamas leader in the territory, said in a speech broadcast on Hamas television Though he called the war, in which more than 1,300 Gazans and 13 Israelis died, a "popular victory" for Palestinians, Haniyeh said Hamas’s decision to declare a truce on Sunday was "wise and responsible". 

Hamas announced an immediate cease-fire by its militants and allied groups in Gaza on Sunday, giving Israel a week to pull out its troops from the coastal territory. 

Israel, which mounted an offensive against Hamas three weeks ago to halt years of rocket attacks, agreed to silence its guns and ground its aircraft early Sunday.

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