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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Libya Cease Fire ? Gaddafi Government Accepts African Union Peace Plan, says Zuma

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Libya: Gaddafi government accepts peace plan, says Zuma



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South African President Jacob Zuma says the Libyan government has accepted an African Union peace plan to end the eight-week-old conflict.
Mr Zuma and three other African leaders met Libya's leader, Col Muammar Gaddafi, in Tripoli on Sunday. An AU team is now going on to the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi.
In Ajdabiya, pro-Gaddafi forces have pushed back rebels in fierce fighting.
Nato says its planes destroyed 25 government tanks on Sunday alone.
The African Union's road map calls for an immediate cease-fire, opening channels for humanitarian aid and talks between the rebels and the government.
"The brother leader [Col Gaddafi] delegation has accepted the roadmap as presented by us," Mr Zuma declared.
"We have to give the ceasefire a chance," he said, after several hours of talks.
Mr Zuma is now returning to South Africa. His foreign minister and the other AU heads of state will travel to Benghazi on Monday.
The British-based representative of the Libyan opposition leadership, Guma al-Gamaty, has told the BBC that they would look carefully at the AU plan, but that any deal designed to keep Colonel Gaddafi or his sons in place would not be acceptable.
An AU official said the idea of Col Gaddafi stepping down had been discussed, but gave no further details.
"There was some discussion on this but I cannot report on this. It has to remain confidential," said AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Ramtane Lamamra.
"It's up to the Libyan people to chose their leaders democratically."
Tanks destroyed Nato air strikes have been continuing: the alliance says its planes destroyed 25 government tanks on Sunday alone.
Eleven were reportedly destroyed as they approached Ajdabiya and 14 were destroyed earlier near Misrata, the only city in western Libya still in rebel hands.
Accusing government forces of "brutally shelling" civilian areas, Nato said it was responding to a desperate situation in the two towns, under its UN mandate to protect civilians.
Reuters news agency photos said to have been taken near Ajdabiya after a Nato air strike on Sunday showed a number of charred bodies lying beside burnt-out pick-up trucks, on at least one of which a heavy machine-gun was mounted.
It was one of the biggest series of air strikes since the coalition's initial onslaught, the BBC's Jon Leyne reports from Benghazi.
'Dialogue' In all, the African Union mission comprised representatives from five nations: presidents Jacob Zuma of South Africa, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania, Amadou Toumani Toure of Mali and Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo, and Uganda's Foreign Minister Henry Oryem Okello.
The mission has called for an "immediate end" to fighting, "diligent conveying of humanitarian aid" and "dialogue between the Libyan parties".
The five-strong panel was approved by the European Union to mediate in Libya.
Our correspondent says that the AU team's plan for the two sides to work together in a transition to democracy looks to be a non-starter.
He says neither side appears ready to make the compromises necessary for a ceasefire.
Col Gaddafi has ignored his own ceasefires in the past, including one announced immediately after the UN authorised a no-fly zone over Libya.
'Helicopters downed' Fierce fighting continued for a second day in Ajdabiya.
Heavy gunfire and loud explosions were heard in the town on Sunday, with reports of intense shelling of the town from the west, from where pro-Gaddafi forces are attacking.
One rebel to the east of Ajdabiya told Reuters: "There is resistance inside the city. Gaddafi forces are fighting with rebels. They have a presence inside."
Another said: "There are Gaddafi forces inside Ajdabiya in sand-coloured Land Cruisers and we know there are Gaddafi snipers in civilian clothing in the city as well."
Ajdabiya is important to the opposition as it controls a strategic crossroads and is the last town before the main rebel city of Benghazi.
Rebel forces had advanced towards Brega on Saturday but were forced back by a counter-attack.
Our correspondent says that once again, Libyan government forces have shown they are able to operate in a much more sophisticated way than the opposition.
They outmanoeuvred the rebels by coming in from the desert.
Our correspondent says the rebels reported capturing Algerian mercenaries from Col Gaddafi's forces, though this cannot be independently verified.
Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim said government forces had shot down two rebel helicopters in the east but this also cannot be confirmed.
He said: "A clear violation was committed by the rebels to [UN] resolution 1973 relating to the no-fly zone."
Speaking in Brussels, the commander of the Nato operation, Lt Gen Charles Bouchard, said that air strikes were also targeting government ammunition bunkers and lines of communication.
He cited as "an example of Nato impartiality" a report that a MiG 23 jet flown by rebel forces had been intercepted and forced to land within minutes of taking off from Benina Airfield near Benghazi on Saturday.


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Gas Prices Continue to Rise, US AVG $ 3.76, Cheapest in Tucson, Highest in San Fransisco

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Price of gas continues to rise, now up to $3.76

Already passed $4 a gallon in some cities; cheapest in Tucson, highest in SF

By Jonathan Stempel
4/10/2011
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The average price for a gallon of gasoline in the United States has moved closer to $4, jumping more than 19 cents since mid-March to a level less than 10 percent below its all-time high, a widely followed survey said Sunday.
The Lundberg Survey said the national average price of self-serve, regular unleaded gas was $3.765 on Friday, up from $3.573 on March 18, and up 91.3 cents from $2.852 a year ago.
Prices in several western U.S. cities are already above $4 per gallon, led by San Francisco at $4.13. Chicago was close behind at $4.11 a gallon, the survey said.
The national average would have been higher had refiners and retailers not resisted passing on rising crude oil prices as customers grow less willing to pay what it takes to fill their gas tanks, analyst Trilby Lundberg said in an interview.
"Demand has been falling at these prices," she said.
The record high average pump price is $4.112 set on July 11, 2008. Lundberg tracks roughly 2,500 gas stations.
Crude oil prices are higher amid unrest in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East, as well as a weaker U.S. dollar, which on Friday fell to a 15-month low against the euro.
A falling dollar often lifts dollar-denominated commodities such as oil. This is because some investors use commodities as an inflation hedge, and consumers who use other currencies may view the commodities as cheap and buy more, driving up prices.
U.S. crude settled Friday at $112.79 per barrel, after earlier reaching its highest intraday price since September 2008. ICE Brent crude settled at $126.65 per barrel, the highest settlement since July 2008.
Even if crude prices do not change, Lundberg said pump prices could rise another dime per gallon as earlier increases work their way into the retail market.
"One gets a little bit depressed talking about it, but we are getting closer" to a $4 per gallon average, though "there is no telling" when or whether it will occur, Lundberg said.
The average price for diesel fuel did top $4 per gallon for the first time since 2008, rising to $4.09 from $3.978 three weeks earlier, and $3.056 a year ago, according to the Lundberg survey, which is done in Camarillo, California.
The lowest average price for a gallon of unleaded gas in the 48 contiguous states was in Tucson, Arizona, at $3.41, Lundberg said. San Francisco had the highest price.

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Evidence, Torture Against 9/11 Plotters Revealed, Details Unsealed, Made Public

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Evidence against 9/11 plotters revealed
By Lucile Malandain (AFP)
April 10, 2011
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WASHINGTON — US prosecutors compiled lots of evidence against the five men accused of having organized the September 11 attacks on the United States, but not until this week have details been fully revealed.
The indictment charging self-professed mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others was unsealed when US Attorney General Eric Holder referred the case to the Defense Department for military trials instead of trials at a US federal court in New York.
Holder said Sheikh Mohammed, Walid bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali and Mustapha Ahmed al-Hawsawi could have been prosecuted in federal court and blamed Congress for imposing measures blocking civilian trials of Guantanamo Bay inmates.
They will be tried in military courts in the US naval base in southeastern Cuba.
The now-public details show that the United States, nearly 10 years after hijackers flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, reconstructed step by step the logistics of the five accused men.
They compiled bank transactions, flight records, visa applications, and dozens of telephone conversations to create the most comprehensive account of the chain of events before the attacks.
Implementation of the plan began in 1999, when Sheikh Mohammed (referred to as "KSM" by US officials) proposed to Osama bin Laden to use commercial airliners as missiles against US targets.
Until the last minute, according to the indictment, Sheikh Mohammed controlled the entire operation.
"From in or about December 1999, through in or about June 2000, Al-Qaeda selected operatives to pilot the airplanes to be hijacked and dispatched the operatives to the United States to obtain flight training and otherwise carry out the plot," the indictment said.
Walid bin Attash, born in Saudi Arabia in 1979, traveled in first-class between Bangkok and Hong Kong, with a knife in his pocket "and approached the cockpit to test security measures." He then took several other international flights, each time with his penknife undetected.
Meanwhile, Ramzi Binalshibh in Hamburg became friends with future hijacker Mohamed Atta. Binalshibh, a 38-year-old Yemeni, applied four times for a visa to the United States in 2000 but was denied each time.
So, at the request of KSM, Binalshibh became and intermediary between KSM and the future hijackers.
At the same time, from Dubai, KSM nephew Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, of Pakistan, provided flight simulation software to the hijackers and began transferring money to US accounts. Between January and June 2000, US investigators pinpointed 35 telephone calls between him and the hijackers.
Mustapha Ahmed al-Hawsawi, a 42-year-old from Saudi Arabia, was accused of being the principal financier of the attacks.
Bank transfers were made in small amounts so as not to arouse suspicion and different names were used each time. Tens of thousands of dollars arrived in US accounts, including for Zacarias Moussaoui, who was involved in the plot but was arrested a month before the attacks.
In the United Arab Emirates, al-Hawsawi monitored the operations and discusses them with KSM.
Between July 9-16, 2001, Ramzi Binalshibh met with Mohamed Atta in Spain. The two men "discussed, among other aspects of the plot, potential targets for the hijacking attacks."
On July 23, KSM filed a visa application for the United States which was refused. At the end of August, he told bin Laden of the date for the attacks.
Between September 4-10, the men made their way from the UAE to Pakistan.
Walid bin Attash was with bin Laden on September 11, after which the Al-Qaeda leader ordered him to Tora Bora in Afghanistan to prepare for an offensive.
The five men, all of whom were arrested in Pakistan, could face the death penalty if convicted.
One year after the attacks, Pakistani police arrested Binalshibh at a home in a chic Karachi suburb. He was alone and didn't put up a fight.
In March 2003, al-Hawsawi and Sheikh Mohammed were picked up by Pakistani special forces in a raid in Rawalpindi.
The indictment said the two men were "at a safe house where they possessed false identification and materials related to Al-Qaeda and the planning and execution of the September 11, 2001, attacks."
Bin Attash and al-Aziz Ali were arrested by Pakistani police in April 2003.
All five men disappeared into secret prisons until September 2006, when they reappeared at Guantanamo.
Sheikh Mohammed is known to have been "waterboarded" or subjected to simulated drowning 183 times during his years in US custody, a method widely recognized as torture.
After his arrest in 2003 he was handed over to American agents who held him in secret prisons before sending him to Guantanamo.
Sheikh Mohammed also claims to have personally beheaded US journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002 with his "blessed right hand" and to have helped in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing that killed six people.

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Tornado Damages Half of MAPLETON, Iowa, Twister at least a quarter of a mile wide VIDEO

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Tornado destroys dozen or more blocks in Iowa town

By GRANT SCHULTE, Associated Press
April 10, 2010 
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MAPLETON, Iowa – Jamy Garden's house began to rumble with the approach of a tornado at least a quarter of a mile wide. Then the windows shattered, spraying her with glass. Using her cellphone as a flashlight, she fled to her basement and called her grandparents in tears.
On Sunday, she returned home, wandering her backyard in a blood-splattered hooded sweat shirt, her right hand and left knee wrapped in gauze. Around her lay a tangle of tree branches, twisted siding, broken glass and a canoe that wasn't hers.
The tornado that struck the evening before damaged more than half of Mapleton, a town of 1,200 in western Iowa, Mayor Fred Standa said Sunday. He estimated about 20 percent of the town was "almost flat."
The huge, centuries-old trees the town was named for had been pulled out of the ground and wrapped around houses and tossed on top of cars, Standa said. In one case, a huge motor home had been flipped on its side.
"It's not a pretty sight," Standa said. "It's something nobody has seen in this town."
Garden's house survived, but everything inside was tossed around. Her two dogs were safe, but she hadn't yet found her cat.
"I don't know where our gazebo went," she said. "The garbage can right there, that was in the front yard. The shed is gone. I don't know what else to tell you. This is the most tumultuous thing I've ever experienced by far."
The tornado destroyed 12 to 15 blocks in the southwest corner of Mapleton when it struck about 7:20 p.m. Saturday, Monona County Sheriff Jeff Pratt said. It stretched from a quarter- to a half-mile and had wind speeds of 105 to 135 mph, he said.
The twister was one of several reported in Iowa. The National Weather Service said it was assessing damage in Sac, Pocohontas and Kossuth counties Sunday after unconfirmed reports of tornadoes there as well.
In Mapleton, the roof was blown off a high school, power lines were downed and homes and buildings were destroyed. Pratt said two people were taken to hospitals with minor injuries.
Utilities also were damaged, and gas fumes filled the town, prompting officials to shut off service. Pratt said gas service will remain off for the next two weeks, but electricity should be restored in the next day or so.
The smell of natural gas hung thick in the air Sunday as forklifts and pick-up trucks hauled debris down streets lined with fallen trees.
Tamara Adams, 37, piled branches on the curb, next to the 30-foot-tall tree that rested on top of her house. She said she closed her outside basement door just as the tornado tore the roof off a store that sits diagonal from her house.
"That sound," she said. "I'll never get it out of my head. It had a life. You could hear it breathing and growling."
Terry Siebersma, who runs a downtown liquor store with his wife, was manning his shop when he heard the tornado sirens and saw the sky turn green. In the distance, he saw the twister swirl into view.
"It was almost like the movies," he said. "It was loud really loud."
Siebersma, 53, said he rushed to the basement. Upstairs, he heard bottles breaking. He emerged several minutes later, and the store looked fine. He said he walked to a back storage room and discovered the roof missing and one wall on the verge of collapse.
"We were very, very lucky," he said. "I almost feel guilty."
Gov. Terry Branstad issued an emergency proclamation covering Mapleton and surrounding Monana County on Saturday so the state could spend money to respond to the storm, his office said. He toured Mapleton on Sunday afternoon.
Monana County is in the same region of western Iowa where four Boy Scouts died in a tornado that struck a scouting ranch in June 2008. The National Weather Service said the tornado that hit the 1,800-acre Little Sioux Scout Ranch in the Loess Hills had an estimated wind speed of 145 mph.
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Associated Press writer Timberly Ross in Omaha, Neb., contributed to this report.

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