Spain: The Truth Knowledge And The History Of The Great Nation Of Spain

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

Spain

Introduction Spain’s powerful world empire of the 16th and 17th centuries ultimately yielded command of the seas to England. Subsequent failure to embrace the mercantile and industrial revolutions caused the country to fall behind Britain, France, and Germany in economic and political power. Spain remained neutral in World Wars I and II but suffered through a devastating civil war (1936-39). A peaceful transition to democracy following the death of dictator Francisco FRANCO in 1975, and rapid economic modernization (Spain joined the EU in 1986) have given Spain one of the most dynamic economies in Europe and made it a global champion of freedom. Continuing challenges include Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) terrorism, illegal immigration, and slowing economic growth.
History After a long and hard conquest, the Iberian Peninsula became a region of the Roman Empire known as Hispania. During the early Middle Ages it came under Germanic rule. Later it was conquered by Muslim invaders. Through a very long and fitful process, the Christian kingdoms in the north gradually rolled back Muslim rule, finally extinguishing its last remnant in Granada in 1492, the same year Columbus reached the Americas. A global empire began. Spain became the strongest kingdom in Europe and the leading world power during the 16th century and first half of the 17th century; but continued wars and other problems eventually led to a diminished status. The French invasion of Spain in the early 19th century led to chaos; triggering independence movements that tore apart most of the empire and left the country politically unstable. In the 20th century it suffered a devastating civil war and came under the rule of an authoritarian government, leading to years of stagnation, but finishing in an impressive economic surge. Democracy was restored in 1978 in the form of a parliamentry constitutional monarchy. In 1986, Spain joined the European Union; experiencing a cultural renaissance and steady economic growth.

Prehistory and pre-Roman peoples

Archeological research at Atapuerca indicates the Iberian Peninsula was peopled 1.2 million years ago. Modern humans in the form of Cro-Magnons began arriving in the Iberian Peninsula through the Pyrenees some 35,000 years ago. The best known artifacts of these prehistoric human settlements are the famous paintings in the Altamira cave of Cantabria in northern Spain, which were created about 15,000 BCE.

The two main historical peoples of the peninsula were the Iberians and the Celts, the former inhabiting the Mediterranean side from the northeast to the southwest, the latter inhabiting the Atlantic side, in the north and northwest part of the peninsula. In the inner part of the peninsula, where both groups were in contact, a mixed, distinctive culture—known as Celtiberian—was present. In addition, Basques occupied the western area of the Pyrenees mountains. Other ethnic groups existed along the southern coastal areas of present day Andalusia. Among these southern groups there grew the earliest urban culture in the Iberian Peninsula, that of the semi-mythical southern city of Tartessos (perhaps pre-1100 BC) near the location of present-day Cádiz. The flourishing trade in gold and silver between the people of Tartessos and Phoenicians and Greeks is documented in the history of Strabo and in the biblical book of king Solomon. Between about 500 BC and 300 BC, the seafaring Phoenicians and Greeks founded trading colonies all along the Spanish Mediterranean coast. Carthaginians briefly took control of much of the Mediterranean coast in the course of the Punic Wars, until they were eventually defeated and replaced by the Romans.

Roman Empire and Germanic invasions

During the Second Punic War, an expanding Roman Empire captured Carthaginian trading colonies along the Mediterranean coast from roughly 210 BC to 205 BC, leading to eventual Roman control of nearly the entire Iberian Peninsula; this lasted over 500 years, bound together by law, language, and the Roman road.

The base Celt and Iberian population remained in various stages of Romanisation, and local leaders were admitted into the Roman aristocratic class.[note 8][5] Hispania served as a granary for the Roman market, and its harbors exported gold, wool, olive oil, and wine. Agricultural production increased with the introduction of irrigation projects, some of which remain in use. Emperors Trajan, Theodosius I, and the philosopher Seneca were born in Hispania.Christianity was introduced into Hispania in the 1st century CE and it became popular in the cities in the 2nd century CE. Most of Spain’s present languages and religion, and the basis of its laws, originate from this period. Rome’s loss of jurisdiction in Hispania began in 409, when the Germanic Suevi and Vandals, together with the Sarmatian Alans crossed the Rhine and ravaged Gaul until the Visigoths drove them into Iberia that same year. The Suevi established a kingdom in what is today modern Galicia and northern Portugal. The Alans’ allies, the Hasdingi Vandals, established a kingdom in Gallaecia, too, occupying largely the same region but extending further south to the Duero river. The Silingi Vandals occupied the region that still bears a form of their name – Vandalusia, modern Andalusia, in Spain.

Muslim Iberia

In the 8th century, several areas of the Iberian Peninsula were conquered (711-718) by mainly Muslims (see Moors) from North Africa. These conquests were part of the expansion of the Umayyad Islamic Empire.[note 10] Only a number of areas in the north of the Iberian Peninsula managed to resist the initial invasion, occupying areas roughly corresponding to modern Asturias, Navarre and northern Aragon.

Under Islam, Christians and Jews were recognised as “peoples of the book”, and were free to practice their religion, but faced a number of mandatory discriminations and penalties as dhimmis. Conversion to Islam proceeded at a steadily increasing pace. Following the mass conversions in the 10th and 11th centuries it is believed that Muslims came to outnumber Christians in the remaining Muslim controlled areas.

The Muslim community in the Iberian peninsula was itself diverse and beset by social tensions. The Berber people of North Africa, who had provided the bulk of the invading armies, clashed with the Arab leadership from the Middle East. Over time, large Moorish populations became established, especially in the Guadalquivir River valley, the coastal plain of Valencia, and (towards the end of this period) in the mountainous region of Granada.

Córdoba, the capital of the caliphate, was the largest, richest and most sophisticated city of medieval western Europe. Mediterranean trade and cultural exchange flourished. Muslims imported a rich intellectual tradition from the Middle East and North Africa. Muslim and Jewish scholars played a great part in reviving and expanding classical Greek learning in Western Europe. The Romanized cultures of the Iberian peninsula interacted with Muslim and Jewish cultures in complex ways, thus giving the region a distinctive culture. Outside the cities, where the vast majority lived, the land ownership system from Roman times remained largely intact as Muslim leaders rarely dispossessed landowners, and the introduction of new crops and techniques led to a remarkable expansion of agriculture.

However, by the 11th century, Muslim holdings had fractured into rival Taifa kingdoms, allowing the small Christian states the opportunity to greatly enlarge their territories and consolidate their positions. The arrival of the North African Muslim ruling sects of the Almoravids and the Almohads restored unity upon Muslim holdings, with a stricter, less tolerant application of Islam, but ultimately, after some successes in invading the north, proved unable to resist the increasing military strength of the Christian states.

Fall of Muslim rule and unification

Given the honored title by the Pope, Catholic MonarchsFerdinand and Isabella, were probably one of the most powerful and accomplished couples in history; they reinforced the Reconquista, founded the Spanish Inquisition, and sponsered Christopher Columbus during the discovery of the New World.

The Reconquista (“Reconquest”) is the centuries-long period of expansion of Spain’s Christian kingdoms; Reconquista is viewed as beginning with the battle of Covadonga in 722 and being concurrent with the period of Muslim rule on the Iberian peninsula. The Christian army’s victory over the Muslim forces led to the creation of the Christian Kingdom of Asturias along the northern coastal mountains. Muslim armies had also moved north of the Pyrenees, but they were defeated at the Battle of Poitiers in France. Subsequently, they retreated to more secure positions south of the Pyrenees with a frontier marked by the Ebro and Duero rivers in Spain. As early as 739 Muslim forces were driven from Galicia, which was to host one of medieval Europe’s holiest sites, Santiago de Compostela. A little later Frankish forces established Christian counties south of the Pyrenees; these areas were to grow into kingdoms, in the north-east and the western part of the Pyrenees. These territories included Navarre, Aragon and Catalonia.

The breakup of Al-Andalus into the competing Taifa kingdoms helped the expanding Christian kingdoms. The capture of the central city of Toledo in 1085 largely completed the reconquest of the northern half of Spain. After a Muslim resurgence in the 12th century, the great Moorish strongholds in the south fell to Christian Spain in the 13th century—Córdoba in 1236 and Seville in 1248—leaving only the Muslim enclave of Granada as a tributary state in the south. Marinid invasions from north Africa in the 13th and 14th centuries failed to re-establish Muslim rule. Also in the 13th century, the kingdom of Aragon, formed by Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia expanded its reach across the Mediterranean to Sicily. Around this time the universities of Palencia (1212/1263) and Salamanca (1218/1254) were established; among the earliest in Europe. The Black Death of 1348 and 1349 devastated Spain.

In 1469, the crowns of the Christian kingdoms of Castile and Aragon were united by the marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand. In 1478 began the final stage of the conquest of Canary Islands and in 1492, these united kingdoms captured Granada, ending the last remnant of a 781-year presence of Islamic rule in Iberia. The Treaty of Granada guaranteed religious tolerance toward Muslims. The year 1492 also marked the arrival in the New World of Christopher Columbus, during a voyage funded by Isabella. That same year, Spain’s Jews were ordered to convert to Catholicism or face expulsion from Spanish territories during the Spanish Inquisition. Not long after, Muslims were also expelled under the same conditions.

As Renaissance New Monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand centralized royal power at the expense of local nobility, and the word España – whose root is the ancient name Hispania – began to be used commonly to designate the whole of the two kingdoms. With their wide-ranging political, legal, religious and military reforms, Spain emerged as the first world power.

Spanish Empire

The unification of the kingdoms of Aragon, Castile, León, and Navarre laid the basis for modern Spain and the Spanish Empire. Spain was Europe’s leading power throughout the 16th century and most of the 17th century, a position reinforced by trade and wealth from colonial possessions. Spain reached its apogee during the reigns of the first two Spanish Habsburgs – Charles I (1516–1556) and Philip II (1556–1598). This period also saw the Italian Wars, the Protestant Reformation, the Dutch revolt, the Morisco revolt, clashes with the Ottomans, the Anglo-Spanish war and wars with France.

Philip II of Spain

The Spanish Empire expanded to include most parts of South and Central America, Mexico, southern and western portions of today’s United States, the Philippines, Guam and the Mariana Islands in Eastern Asia, parts of northern Italy, southern Italy, Sicily, cities in Northern Africa, as well as parts of France, modern Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. It was the first empire about which it was said that the sun never set. This was an age of discovery, with daring explorations by sea and by land, the opening-up of new trade routes across oceans, conquests and the beginnings of European colonialism. Along with the arrival of precious metals, spices, luxuries, and new agricultural plants, Spanish and other explorers brought back knowledge from the New World, playing a leading part in transforming Europeans understanding of the globe. The cultural efflorescence witnessed is now referred to as the Spanish Golden Age.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Spain was confronted by unrelenting challenges from all sides. Barbary pirates under the aegis of the rapidly growing Ottoman empire, disrupted life in many coastal areas through their slave raids and renewed the threat of an Islamic invasion.[note 15] This at a time when Spain was often at war with France in Italy and elsewhere. Later the Protestant Reformation schism from the Catholic Church dragged the kingdom ever more deeply into the mire of religiously charged wars. The result was a country forced into ever expanding military efforts across Europe and in the Mediterranean. The rise of humanism, the Protestant Reformation and new geographical discoveries raised issues addressed by an intellectual movement known as the School of Salamanca.

By the middle decades of a war and plague ridden 17th century Europe, the effects of the strain began to show. The Spanish Habsburgs had enmeshed the country in the continent wide religious-political conflicts. These conflicts drained it of resources and undermined the European economy generally. Spain managed to hold on to most of the scattered Habsburg empire, and help the imperial forces of the Holy Roman Empire reverse a large part of the advances made by Protestant forces, but it was finally forced to recognise the separation of Portugal (with whom it had been united in a personal union of the crowns from 1580 to 1640) and the Netherlands, and eventually suffered some serious military reverses to France in the latter stages of the immensely destructive, Europe-wide Thirty Years War.

In the latter half of the 17th century, Spain went into a gradual relative decline, during which it surrendered a number of small territories to France. However Spain maintained and enlarged its vast overseas empire, which remained intact until the beginning of the 19th century.

The decline culminated in a controversy over succession to the throne which consumed the first years of the 18th century. The War of Spanish Succession, a wide ranging international conflict combined with a civil war, cost Spain its European possessions and its position as one of the leading powers on the Continent.

During this war, a new dynasty—the French Bourbons—was installed. Long united only by the Crown, a true Spanish state was established when the first Bourbon king Philip V of Spain united Castile and Aragon into a single state, abolishing many of the regional privileges (fueros).

The 18th century saw a gradual recovery and an increase in prosperity through much of the empire. The new Bourbon monarchy drew on the French system of modernising the administration and the economy. Enlightenment ideas began to gain ground among some of the kingdom’s elite and monarchy. Towards the end of the century trade finally began growing strongly. Military assistance for the rebellious British colonies in the American War of Independence improved Spain’s international standing.

Napoleonic rule and its consequences

In 1793, Spain went to war against the new French Republic, which had overthrown and executed its Bourbon king, Louis XVI. The war polarised the country in an apparent reaction against the gallicised elites. Defeated in the field, Spain made peace with France in 1795 and effectively became a client state of that country; the following year, it declared war against Britain and Portugal. A disastrous economic situation, along with other factors, led to the abdication of the Spanish king in favour of Napoleon’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte.

This foreign puppet monarch was widely regarded with scorn. On 2 May 1808, the people of Madrid began a nationalist uprising against the French army, one of many across the country, marking the beginning of what is known to the Spanish as the War of Independence, and to the English as the Peninsular War. Napoleon was forced to intervene personally, defeating several badly coordinated Spanish armies and forcing a British Army to retreat to Corunna. However, further military action by Spanish guerrillas and Wellington’s Anglo-Portuguese army, combined with Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Russia, led to the ousting of the French from Spain in 1814, and the return of King Ferdinand VII.

The French invasion proved disastrous for Spain’s economy, and left a deeply divided country that was prone to political instability for more than a century. The power struggles of the early 19th century led to the loss of all of Spain’s colonies in Latin America, with the exception of Cuba and Puerto Rico.

Spanish-American War

Amid the instability and economic crisis that afflicted Spain in the 19th century there arose nationalist movements in the Philippines and Cuba. Wars of independence ensued in those colonies and eventually the United States became involved. Despite the commitment and ability shown by some military units, they were so mismanaged by the highest levels of command that the Spanish-American war of 1898 was soon over. “El Desastre” (The Disaster), as the war became known in Spain, helped give impetus to the Generation of 98 who were already conducting much critical analysis concerning the country. It also weakened the stability that had been established during Alfonso XII’s reign.

20th century

The 20th century brought little peace; Spain played a minor part in the scramble for Africa, with the colonisation of Western Sahara, Spanish Morocco and Equatorial Guinea. The heavy losses suffered during the Rif war in Morocco helped to undermine the monarchy. A period of authoritarian rule under General Miguel Primo de Rivera (1923-1931) ended with the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic. The Republic offered political autonomy to the Basque Country, Catalonia and Galicia and gave voting rights to women.

The bitterly fought Spanish Civil War (1936-39) ensued. Three years later the Nationalist forces, led by General Francisco Franco, emerged victorious with the support of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The Republican side was supported by the Soviet Union and Mexico and international brigades , most famously the american ‘Abraham Lincon Brigade’, but it was not supported officially by the Western powers due to the British-led policy of Non-Intervention. The Spanish Civil War has been called the first battle of the Second World War; under Franco, Spain was neutral in the Second World War though sympathetic to the Axis.

The only legal party under Franco’s regime was the Falange española tradicionalista y de las JONS, formed in 1937; the party emphasised anti-Communism, Catholicism and nationalism. Nonetheless, since Franco’s anti-democratic ideology was opposed to the idea of political parties, the new party was renamed officially a National Movement (Movimiento Nacional) in 1949.

After World War II, Spain was politically and economically isolated, and was kept out of the United Nations until 1955, when due to the Cold War it became strategically important for the U.S. to create a military presence on the Iberian peninsula, next to the Mediterranean Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar, in order to protect southern Europe. In the 1960s, Spain registered an unprecedented economic growth in what was called the Spanish miracle, which rapidly resumed the long interrupted transition towards a modern industrial economy with a thriving tourism sector and a high degree of human development.

Upon the death of General Franco in November 1975, Prince Juan Carlos assumed the position of king and head of state. With the approval of the new Spanish Constitution of 1978 and the arrival of democracy, the State devolved autonomy to the regions and created an internal organization based on autonomous communities. In the Basque Country, moderate Basque nationalism coexisted with a radical nationalism supportive of the separatist group ETA.

On 23 February 1981, rebel elements among the security forces seized the Cortes and tried to impose a military-backed government. However, the great majority of the military forces remained loyal to King Juan Carlos, who used his personal authority and addressed the usurpers via national TV as commander in chief to put down the bloodless coup attempt.

On 30 May 1982, NATO gained a new member when, following a referendum, the newly democratic Spain joined the alliance. Also in 1982, the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) came to power, representing the return of a left-wing government after 43 years. In 1986, Spain joined the European Community – what has now become the European Union. The PSOE was replaced in government by the Partido Popular (PP) after the latter won the 1996 General Elections; at that point the PSOE had served almost 14 consecutive years in office.

The Government of Spain has been involved in a long-running campaign against the separatist and terrorist organization ETA (“Basque Homeland and Freedom”), founded in 1959 in opposition to Franco and dedicated to promoting Basque independence through violent means. They consider themselves a guerrilla organization while they are listed as a terrorist organization by both the European Union and the United States on their respective watchlists. The current nationalist-led Basque Autonomous government does not endorse ETA’s nationalist violence, which has caused over 800 deaths in the past 40 years.

21st century

On 1 January 2002, Spain terminated its peseta currency and replaced it with the euro, which it shares with 14 other countries in the Eurozone. Spain has also seen strong economic growth, well above the EU average, but concerns are growing that the extraordinary property boom and high foreign trade deficits of recent years may bring this to an end.

A series of bombs exploded in commuter trains in Madrid, Spain on 11 March 2004. After a five month trial in 2007 it was concluded the bombings were perpetrated by a local Islamist militant group inspired by al-Qaeda. The bombings killed 191 people and wounded more than 1800, and the intention of the perpetrators may have been to influence the outcome of the Spanish general election, held three days later. Though initial suspicions focused on the Basque group ETA, evidence soon emerged indicating possible Islamist involvement. Because of the proximity of the election, the issue of responsibility quickly became a political controversy, with the main competing parties PP and PSOE exchanging accusations over the handling of the aftermath. At the 14 March elections, PSOE, led by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, obtained a relative majority, enough to form a new cabinet with Rodríguez Zapatero as the new Presidente del Gobierno or prime minister of Spain, thus succeeding the former PP administration.

Geography Location: Southwestern Europe, bordering the Bay of Biscay, Mediterranean Sea, North Atlantic Ocean, and Pyrenees Mountains, southwest of France
Geographic coordinates: 40 00 N, 4 00 W
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 504,782 sq km
land: 499,542 sq km
water: 5,240 sq km
note: there are two autonomous cities – Ceuta and Melilla – and 17 autonomous communities including Balearic Islands and Canary Islands, and three small Spanish possessions off the coast of Morocco – Islas Chafarinas, Penon de Alhucemas, and Penon de Velez de la Gomera
Area – comparative: slightly more than twice the size of Oregon
Land boundaries: total: 1,917.8 km
border countries: Andorra 63.7 km, France 623 km, Gibraltar 1.2 km, Portugal 1,214 km, Morocco (Ceuta) 6.3 km, Morocco (Melilla) 9.6 km
Coastline: 4,964 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm (applies only to the Atlantic Ocean)
Climate: temperate; clear, hot summers in interior, more moderate and cloudy along coast; cloudy, cold winters in interior, partly cloudy and cool along coast
Terrain: large, flat to dissected plateau surrounded by rugged hills; Pyrenees in north
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Pico de Teide (Tenerife) on Canary Islands 3,718 m
Natural resources: coal, lignite, iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, uranium, tungsten, mercury, pyrites, magnesite, fluorspar, gypsum, sepiolite, kaolin, potash, hydropower, arable land
Land use: arable land: 27.18%
permanent crops: 9.85%
other: 62.97% (2005)
Irrigated land: 37,800 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 111.1 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 37.22 cu km/yr (13%/19%/68%)
per capita: 864 cu m/yr (2002)
Natural hazards: periodic droughts
Environment – current issues: pollution of the Mediterranean Sea from raw sewage and effluents from the offshore production of oil and gas; water quality and quantity nationwide; air pollution; deforestation; desertification
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants
Geography – note: strategic location along approaches to Strait of Gibraltar
Politics Constitution

The Spanish Constitution of 1978 is the culmination of the Spanish transition to democracy.

The constitutional history of Spain dates back to the constitution of 1812. After the death of Francisco Franco in 1975, a general election in 1977 convened the Constituent Cortes (the Spanish Parliament, in its capacity as a constitutional assembly) for the purpose of drafting and approving the constitution of 1978.

As a result, Spain is now composed of 17 autonomous communities and two autonomous cities with varying degrees of autonomy thanks to its Constitution, which nevertheless explicitly states the indivisible unity of the Spanish nation as well as that Spain has today no official religion but all are free to practice and believe as they wish.

Government

Spain is a constitutional monarchy, with a hereditary monarch and a bicameral parliament, the Cortes Generales. The executive branch consists of a Council of Ministers presided over by the President of Government (comparable to a prime minister), proposed by the monarch and elected by the National Assembly following legislative elections.

The legislative branch is made up of the Congress of Deputies (Congreso de los Diputados) with 350 members, elected by popular vote on block lists by proportional representation to serve four-year terms, and a Senate (Senado) with 259 seats of which 208 are directly elected by popular vote and the other 51 appointed by the regional legislatures to also serve four-year terms.

The Spanish nation is organizationally composed in the form of called Estado de las Autonomías (“State of Autonomies”); it is one of the most decentralized countries in Europe, along with Switzerland, Germany and Belgium;[30] for example, all Autonomous Communities have their own elected parliaments, governments, public administrations, budgets, and resources; therefore, health and education systems among others are managed regionally, besides, the Basque Country and Navarre also manage their own public finances based on foral provisions. In Catalonia and the Basque Country, a full fledged autonomous police corps replaces some of the State police functions (see Mossos d’Esquadra and Ertzaintza).

People Population: 40,491,052 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 14.4% (male 3,011,815/female 2,832,788)
15-64 years: 67.6% (male 13,741,493/female 13,641,914)
65 years and over: 17.9% (male 3,031,597/female 4,231,444) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 40.7 years
male: 39.3 years
female: 42.1 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.096% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 9.87 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 9.9 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 0.99 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.72 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 4.26 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 4.65 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.85 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.92 years
male: 76.6 years
female: 83.45 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.3 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.7% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 140,000 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: fewer than 1,000 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Spaniard(s)
adjective: Spanish
Ethnic groups: composite of Mediterranean and Nordic types
Religions: Roman Catholic 94%, other 6%
Languages: Castilian Spanish (official) 74%, Catalan 17%, Galician 7%, Basque 2%, are official regionally
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 97.9%
male: 98.7%
female: 97.2% (2003 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 16 years
male: 16 years
female: 17 years (2006)
Education expenditures: 4.2% of GDP (2005)

Spratly Islands: The Islands Nation That Isn’t A Nation, So Says China

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

Spratly Islands

Introduction The Spratly Islands consist of more than 100 small islands or reefs. They are surrounded by rich fishing grounds and potentially by gas and oil deposits. They are claimed in their entirety by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam, while portions are claimed by Malaysia and the Philippines. About 45 islands are occupied by relatively small numbers of military forces from China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Brunei has established a fishing zone that overlaps a southern reef but has not made any formal claim.
History The first possible recorded human interaction with the Spratly Islands dates back as far as 3 B.C. This is based on the discovery that the people of Nanyue (southern China and northern Vietnam) and Old Champa kingdom fishermen (modern-day central Vietnam) had been visiting the Spratly Islands and other South China Sea Islands for fishing.

Ancient Chinese maps record the Qianli Changsha (千里長沙) and Wanli Shitang (萬里石塘), which China today claims refer to these islands. These islands were labeled as Chinese territory since the Yuan Dynasty in the 13th century, followed by the Ming Dynasty. When the Ming Dynasty collapsed, the Qing Dynasty continued to include the territory in maps complied in 1724, 1755, 1767, 1810, 1817 by the Qing Dynasty of China.

Ancient Vietnamese maps record Bãi Cát Vàng (Golden Sandbanks, as claimed today by Vietnam referring to both Paracel and Spratly Islands) which lies near the Coast of the central Vietnam as early as the 17th century. In Phủ Biên Tạp Lục (Frontier Chronicles) by the scholar Le Quy Don, Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa were defined as belonging to Quảng Ngãi District. He described it as where sea products and shipwrecked cargoes were available to be collected. Vietnamese text written in the 17th century referenced government-sponsored economic activities during the Le Dynasty, 200 years earlier. The Vietnamese government conducted several geographical surveys of the islands in the 18th century.

The islands were sporadically visited throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by mariners from different European powers (including either Richard Spratly or William Spratly, after whom the island group derives its most recognizable English name). However, these nations showed little interest in the islands. In 1883, German boats surveyed the Spratly and Paracel Islands but withdrew the survey eventually after receiving protests from the Nguyen Dynasty.

In 1933, France claimed the Spratly and Paracel Islands on behalf of its then-colony Vietnam. It occupied a number of the Spratly Islands, including Itu Aba, built weather stations on two, and administered them as part of French Indochina. This occupation was protested by the Republic of China government because France admitted finding Chinese fishermen there when French war ships visited the nine islands. In 1935, the Chinese government also announced a sovereignty claim on the Spratly Islands. Japan occupied some of the islands in 1939 during World War II, and used the islands as a submarine base for the occupation of Southeast Asia. During the occupation, these islands were called Shinnan Shoto (新南諸島), literally the New Southern Islands, and put under the governance of Taiwan together with the Paracel Islands (西沙群岛). Today, Itu Aba Island is still administrated by the Republic of China (Taiwan).

Following the defeat of Japan at the end of World War II, the Republic of China government (Nationalist) re-claimed the entirety of the Spratly Islands (including Itu Aba), accepting the Japanese surrender on the islands based on the Cairo and Potsdam Declarations. Several years later, the Nationalist Chinese government withdrew from most of the Spratly and Paracel Islands after they were defeated by the forces of the opposing Communist Party of China in 1949.

Japan renounced all claims to the islands in 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty, together with the Paracels, Pratas & other islands captured from China, upon which China reasserted its claim to the islands.

The naval units of the Vietnamese government took over in Trường Sa after the defeat of the French at the end of the First Indochina War. In 1958, the People’s Republic of China issued a declaration defining its territorial waters, which encompassed the Spratly Islands. North Vietnam’s prime minister, Pham Van Dong, sent a formal note to Zhou Enlai, stating that “The Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam respects this decision.”. However, the Spratly Islands were under the jurisdiction of South Vietnam, not North Vietnam.

Geography Location: Southeastern Asia, group of reefs and islands in the South China Sea, about two-thirds of the way from southern Vietnam to the southern Philippines
Geographic coordinates: 8 38 N, 111 55 E
Map references: Southeast Asia
Area: total: less than 5 sq km
land: less than 5 sq km
water: 0 sq km
note: includes 100 or so islets, coral reefs, and sea mounts scattered over an area of nearly 410,000 sq km of the central South China Sea
Area – comparative: NA
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 926 km
Maritime claims: NA
Climate: tropical
Terrain: flat
Elevation extremes: lowest point: South China Sea 0 m
highest point: unnamed location on Southwest Cay 4 m
Natural resources: fish, guano, undetermined oil and natural gas potential
Land use: arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 100% (2005)
Irrigated land: 0 sq km
Natural hazards: typhoons; numerous reefs and shoals pose a serious maritime hazard
Environment – current issues: NA
Geography – note: strategically located near several primary shipping lanes in the central South China Sea; includes numerous small islands, atolls, shoals, and coral reefs
Politics There are multiple reasons why the neighboring nations would be interested in the Spratly Islands. In 1968 oil was discovered in the region. The Geology and Mineral Resources Ministry of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has estimated that the Spratly area holds oil and natural gas reserves of 17.7 billion tons (1.60 × 1010 kg), as compared to the 13 billion tons (1.17 × 1010 kg) held by Kuwait, placing it as the fourth largest reserve bed in the world. Naturally, these large reserves assisted in intensifying the situation and propelled the territorial claims of the neighboring countries. On 11 March 1976, the first major Philippine oil discovery occurred off the coast of Palawan, within the Spratly Islands territory, and these oil fields now account for fifteen percent of all petroleum consumed in the Philippines. In 1992, the PRC and Vietnam granted oil exploration contracts to U.S. oil companies that covered overlapping areas in the Spratlys. In May 1992, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and Crestone Energy (a U.S. company based in Denver, Colorado) signed a cooperation contract for the joint exploration of the Wan’an Bei-21 block, a 25,155 km² section of the southwestern South China Sea that includes Spratly Island areas. Part of the Crestone’s contract covered Vietnam’s blocks 133 and 134, where PetroVietnam and ConocoPhillips Vietnam Exploration & Production, a unit of ConocoPhillips, agreed to evaluate prospects in April 1992. This led to a confrontation between China and Vietnam, with each demanding that the other cancel its contract.

An additional motive is the region’s role as one of the world’s most productive areas for commercial fishing. In 1988, for example, the South China Sea accounted for eight percent of the total world catch, a figure which has certainly risen. The PRC has predicted that the South China Sea holds combined fishing and oil and gas resources worth one trillion dollars. There have already been numerous clashes between the Philippines and other nations — particularly the PRC — over foreign fishing vessels in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the media regularly report the arrest of Chinese fishermen. In 1984, Brunei established an exclusive fishing zone encompassing Louisa Reef in the southern Spratly Islands, but has not publicly claimed the island.

The region is also one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. During the 1980s, at least two hundred and seventy ships passed through the Spratly Islands region each day, and currently more than half of the world’s supertanker traffic, by tonnage, passes through the region’s waters every year. Tanker traffic through the South China Sea is over three times greater than through the Suez Canal and five times more than through the Panama Canal; twenty five percent of the world’s crude oil passes through the South China Sea.

There have been occasional naval clashes over the Spratly Islands. In 1988, China and Vietnam clashed at sea over possession of Johnson Reef in the Spratlys. Chinese gunboats sank Vietnamese transport ships supporting a landing party of Vietnamese soldiers.

In response to growing concerns by coastal states regarding encroachments by foreign vessels on their natural resources, the United Nations convened the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1982 to determine the issue of international sea boundaries. In response to these concerns, it was resolved that a coastal state could claim two hundred nautical miles of jurisdiction beyond its land boundaries. However UNCLOS failed to address the issue of how to adjudicate on overlapping claims and so the future of the islands remains clouded.

Following a 1995 dispute between China and the Philippines an ASEAN-brokered agreement was reached between the PRC and ASEAN member nations whereby a nation would inform the others of any military movement within the disputed territory and that there would be no further construction. The agreement was promptly violated by China and Malaysia. Claiming storm damage, seven Chinese naval vessels entered the area to repair “fishing shelters” in Panganiban Reef. Malaysia erected a structure on Investigator Shoal and landed at Rizal Reef. In response the Philippines lodged formal protests, demanded the removal of the structures, increased naval patrols in Kalayaan and issued invitations to American politicians to inspect the PRC bases by plane.

In the early 21st century, the situation is improving. China recently held talks with ASEAN countries aimed at realizing a proposal for a free trade area between the ten countries involved. China and ASEAN also have been engaged in talks to create a code of conduct aimed at easing tensions in the disputed islands. On 5 March 2002, an agreement was reached, setting forth the desire of the claimant nations to resolve the problem of sovereignty “without further use of force”. In November 2002, a Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea was signed, easing tensions but falling short of a legally-binding code of conduct.

People Population: no indigenous inhabitants
note: there are scattered garrisons occupied by personnel of several claimant states
Government Country name: conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Spratly Islands
Economy Economy – overview: Economic activity is limited to commercial fishing. The proximity to nearby oil- and gas-producing sedimentary basins suggests the potential for oil and gas deposits, but the region is largely unexplored. There are no reliable estimates of potential reserves. Commercial exploitation has yet to be developed.
Transportation Airports: 3 (2007)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 1 (2007)
Airports – with unpaved runways: total: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2007)
Heliports: 3 (2007)
Ports and terminals: none; offshore anchorage only
Military Military – note: Spratly Islands consist of more than 100 small islands or reefs of which about 45 are claimed and occupied by China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam
Transnational Issues Disputes – international: all of the Spratly Islands are claimed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam; parts of them are claimed by Malaysia and the Philippines; in 1984, Brunei established an exclusive fishing zone that encompasses Louisa Reef in the southern Spratly Islands but has not publicly claimed the reef; claimants in November 2002 signed the “Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea,” which has eased tensions but falls short of a legally binding “code of conduct”; in March 2005, the national oil companies of China, the Philippines, and Vietnam signed a joint accord to conduct marine seismic activities in the Spratly Islands

2 Men Tried To Rob A McDonald’s Full Of French Special Forces Soldiers: Not Smart

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE MILITARY NEWS PAPER ‘FOR GOD AND COUNTRY’)

 

Armed Men Attempt to Rob McDonald’s Full of Special Forces Soldiers, Fail Spectacularly

A pair of armed robbers thought they had it all worked out when they stormed into a McDonald’s. They were wearing masks, armed with shotguns, and had their plan all laid out.

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But one thing they didn’t have a plan for was an entire special operations team that happened to be eating lunch inside the restaurant, dressed in civilian clothing.

Some 40 plus customers chomping away on their burgers Sunday evening in the fast food restaurant when the two robbers stormed in, fired a shotgun blast into the air, threatening the guests and ordering staff to open the cash registers, which contained just under $2,300 in cash.

“At first, I did not realize there was a gunshot,” said 20-year-old Antony, who works in the kitchen.

The robbers went about committing their crime completely unaware that 11 members of the French special forces, Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale, or GIGN – the anti-terrorism equivalent of the British SAS – who were none too amused at having their meal of Big Macs and french fries disturbed by two bumbling criminals.

The commandos kept their cool during the robbery, but leaped into action as it wound down to avoid any collateral bloodshed.

Edwige Roux-Morizot, the local prosecutor, told reporters: “During the hold-up, the gendarmes didn’t do anything. It was out of the question to use their weapons, as this would have created difficulties and could have placed many people’s lives in danger.”

The battle hardened warriors pounced when the first of the robbers stumbled on his way out the front door, taking him into custody without any gun play, but did suffer some injuries during the aggressive arrest.

The second robber wasn’t as smart and turned his gun towards the GIGN operators after being told to drop the weapon. He was shot multiple times in the stomach.

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Both suspects were transported to the hospital for treatment and now sit in jail awaiting trial on armed robbery charges.

GIGN was formed in 1972 as a direct response to the Munich Olympic massacre where Palestinian terrorists took 11 Israeli athletes hostage, killing them all.

More recently, GIGN received worldwide video coverage of their operations following the Charlie Hebdo attacks and the bombing at the Bataclan theater.

Vanuatu: Information About The Island Nation From The ‘CIA Fact Book’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘CIA FACT BOOK’)

 

Vanuatu

Introduction Multiple waves of colonizers, each speaking a distinct language, migrated to the New Hebrides in the millennia preceding European exploration in the 18th century. This settlement pattern accounts for the complex linguistic diversity found on the archipelago to this day. The British and French, who settled the New Hebrides in the 19th century, agreed in 1906 to an Anglo-French Condominium, which administered the islands until independence in 1980, when the new name of Vanuatu was adopted.
History The prehistory of Vanuatu is obscure; archaeological evidence supports the commonly held theory that peoples speaking Austronesian languages first came to the islands some 4,000 years ago. Pottery fragments have been found dating back to 1300–1100 B.C.

The first island in the Vanuatu group discovered by Europeans was Espiritu Santo, when in 1606 the Portuguese explorer Pedro Fernandes de Queirós working for the Spanish crown, spied what he thought was a southern continent. Europeans did not return until 1768, when Louis Antoine de Bougainville rediscovered the islands. In 1774, Captain Cook named the islands the New Hebrides, a name that lasted until independence.

In 1825, trader Peter Dillon’s discovery of sandalwood on the island of Erromango began a rush that ended in 1830 after a clash between immigrant Polynesian workers and indigenous Melanesians. During the 1860s, planters in Australia, Fiji, New Caledonia, and the Samoa Islands, in need of laborers, encouraged a long-term indentured labor trade called “blackbirding.” At the height of the labor trade, more than one-half the adult male population of several of the Islands worked abroad. Fragmentary evidence indicates that the current population of Vanuatu is greatly reduced compared to pre-contact times.

It was at this time that missionaries, both Catholic and Protestant, arrived on the islands. Settlers also came, looking for land on which to establish cotton plantations. When international cotton prices collapsed, they switched to coffee, cocoa, bananas, and, most successfully, coconuts. Initially, British subjects from Australia made up the majority, but the establishment of the Caledonian Company of the New Hebrides in 1882 soon tipped the balance in favor of French subjects. By the turn of the century, the French outnumbered the British two to one.

The jumbling of French and British interests in the islands brought petitions for one or another of the two powers to annex the territory. In 1906, however, France and the United Kingdom agreed to administer the islands jointly. Called the British-French Condominium, it was a unique form of government, with separate governmental systems that came together only in a joint court. Melanesians were barred from acquiring the citizenship of either power.

Challenges to this form of government began in the early 1940s. The arrival of Americans during World War II, with their informal demeanor and relative wealth, was instrumental in the rise of nationalism in the islands. The belief in a mythical messianic figure named John Frum was the basis for an indigenous cargo cult (a movement attempting to obtain industrial goods through magic) promising Melanesian deliverance. Today, John Frum is both a religion and a political party with a member in Parliament.

The first political party was established in the early 1970s and originally was called the New Hebrides National Party. One of the founders was Father Walter Lini, who later became Prime Minister. Renamed the Vanua’aku Pati in 1974, the party pushed for independence; in 1980, the Republic of Vanuatu was created.

During the 1990s Vanuatu experienced political instability which eventually resulted in a more decentralised government. The Vanuatu Mobile Force, a paramilitary group, attempted a coup in 1996 because of a pay dispute. There were allegations of corruption in the government of Maxime Carlot Korman. New elections have been called for, several times since 1997, most recently in 2004.

Geography Location: Oceania, group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to Australia
Geographic coordinates: 16 00 S, 167 00 E
Map references: Oceania
Area: total: 12,200 sq km
land: 12,200 sq km
water: 0 sq km
note: includes more than 80 islands, about 65 of which are inhabited
Area – comparative: slightly larger than Connecticut
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 2,528 km
Maritime claims: measured from claimed archipelagic baselines
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
Climate: tropical; moderated by southeast trade winds from May to October; moderate rainfall from November to April; may be affected by cyclones from December to April
Terrain: mostly mountainous islands of volcanic origin; narrow coastal plains
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Tabwemasana 1,877 m
Natural resources: manganese, hardwood forests, fish
Land use: arable land: 1.64%
permanent crops: 6.97%
other: 91.39% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Natural hazards: tropical cyclones or typhoons (January to April); volcanic eruption on Aoba (Ambae) island began 27 November 2005, volcanism also causes minor earthquakes; tsunamis
Environment – current issues: most of the population does not have access to a reliable supply of potable water; deforestation
Environment – international agreements: party to: Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 94
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: a Y-shaped chain of four main islands and 80 smaller islands; several of the islands have active volcanoes
Politics Vanuatu has a parliamentary democracy political system which is currently headed by a President who has, primarily, ceremonial powers and who is elected for 5-year terms by a two-thirds majority in an electoral college. This electoral college consists of members of Parliament and the presidents of Regional Councils. The President may be removed by the electoral college for gross misconduct or incapacity. The Prime Minister, who is the head of government, is elected by a majority vote of a three-fourths quorum of the Parliament. The prime minister, in turn, appoints the Council of Ministers, whose number may not exceed a quarter of the number of parliamentary representatives. The prime minister and the Council of Ministers constitute the executive government.

The Parliament of Vanuatu is unicameral and has 54 members who are elected by popular vote every four years, unless earlier dissolved by a majority vote of a three-quarters quorum or by a directive from the President on the advice of the Prime Minister. The national Council of Chiefs, called the Malvatu Mauri and elected by district councils of chiefs, advises the government on all matters concerning ni-Vanuatu culture and language.

Besides a national authorities and figures, Vanuatu also has high-placed people at village level. Chiefs were and are still the leading figures on village level. It has been reported that even politicians need to oblige them. One becomes such figure by holding a number of lavish feasts (each feast allowing them a higher ceremonial grade) or alternatively through inheritance (the latter only in Polynesian-influenced villages). In northern Vanuatu, grades trough feasts are taken trough the nimangki-system.

Government and society in Vanuatu tend to divide along linguistic French and English lines. Forming coalition governments, however, has proved problematic at times due to differences between English and French speakers.

The Supreme Court consists of a chief justice and up to three other judges. Two or more members of this court may constitute a Court of Appeal. Magistrate courts handle most routine legal matters. The legal system is based on British common law and French civil law. The constitution also provides for the establishment of village or island courts presided over by chiefs to deal with questions of customary law.

People Population: 218,519 (July 2009 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 30.7% (male 34,263/female 32,833)
15-64 years: 65.3% (male 72,670/female 69,970)
65 years and over: 4% (male 4,516/female 4,267) (2009 est.)
Median age: total: 24.2 years
male: 24.2 years
female: 24.2 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.398% (2009 est.)
Birth rate: 21.95 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 7.61 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA (2009 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.06 male(s)/female
total population: 1.04 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 49.45 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 51.97 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 46.81 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 63.98 years
male: 62.37 years
female: 65.66 years (2009 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.5 children born/woman (2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: NA
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: NA
HIV/AIDS – deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Ni-Vanuatu (singular and plural)
adjective: Ni-Vanuatu
Ethnic groups: Ni-Vanuatu 98.5%, other 1.5% (1999 Census)
Religions: Presbyterian 31.4%, Anglican 13.4%, Roman Catholic 13.1%, Seventh-Day Adventist 10.8%, other Christian 13.8%, indigenous beliefs 5.6% (including Jon Frum cargo cult), other 9.6%, none 1%, unspecified 1.3% (1999 Census)
Languages: local languages (more than 100) 72.6%, pidgin (known as Bislama or Bichelama) 23.1%, English 1.9%, French 1.4%, other 0.3%, unspecified 0.7% (1999 Census)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 74%
male: NA
female: NA (1999 census)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 10 years
male: 11 years
female: 10 years (2004)
Education expenditures: 9.5% of GDP (2003)
Government Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Vanuatu
conventional short form: Vanuatu
local long form: Ripablik blong Vanuatu
local short form: Vanuatu
former: New Hebrides
Government type: parliamentary republic
Capital: name: Port-Vila (on Efate)
geographic coordinates: 17 44 S, 168 19 E
time difference: UTC+11 (16 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions: 6 provinces; Malampa, Penama, Sanma, Shefa, Tafea, Torba
Independence: 30 July 1980 (from France and UK)
National holiday: Independence Day, 30 July (1980)
Constitution: 30 July 1980
Legal system: unified system being created from former dual French and British systems; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Kalkot Matas KELEKELE (since 16 August 2004)
head of government: Prime Minister Edward NATAPEI (since 22 September 2008); Deputy Prime Minister Ham LINI (since 22 September 2008)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the prime minister, responsible to Parliament
elections: president elected for a five-year term by an electoral college consisting of Parliament and the presidents of the regional councils; election for president last held 16 August 2004 (next to be held in 2009); following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or majority coalition is usually elected prime minister by Parliament from among its members; election for prime minister last held 22 September 2008 (next to be held following general elections in 2012)
election results: Kalkot Matas KELEKELE elected president, with 49 votes out of 56, after several ballots on 16 August 2004
Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament (52 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 2 September 2008 (next to be held 2012)
election results: percent of vote by party – NA; seats by party – VP 11, NUP 8, UMP 7, VRP 7, PPP 4, GC 2, MPP 1, NA 1, NAG 1, PAP 1, Shepherds Alliance 1, VFFP 1, VLP 1, VNP 1, VPRFP 1, and independent 4; note – political party associations are fluid
note: the National Council of Chiefs advises on matters of culture and language
Judicial branch: Supreme Court (chief justice is appointed by the president after consultation with the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, three other justices are appointed by the president on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission)
Political parties and leaders: Greens Confederation or GC [Moana CARCASSES]; Jon Frum Movement or JF [Song KEASPAI]; Melanesian Progressive Party or MPP [Barak SOPE]; Nagriamel movement or NAG [Havo MOLI]; Namangi Aute or NA [Paul TELUKLUK]; National United Party or NUP [Ham LINI]; People’s Action Party or PAP [Peter VUTA]; People’s Progressive Party or PPP [Sato KILMAN]; Shepherds Alliance Party [leader NA]; Union of Moderate Parties or UMP [Serge VOHOR]; Vanuatu Family First Party or VFFP [Eta RORI]; Vanuatu Labor Party or VLP [Joshua KALSAKAU]; Vanuatu National Party or VNP [Issac HAMARILIU]; Vanua’aku Pati (Our Land Party) or VP [Edward NATAPEI]; Vanuatu Republican Party or VRP [Maxime Carlot KORMAN]; Vanuatu Republican Farmers Party or VPRFP [Jean RAVOU]
Political pressure groups and leaders: NA
International organization participation: ACCT, ACP, ADB, C, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, IOC, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, NAM, OAS (observer), OIF, OPCW, PIF, Sparteca, SPC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WHO, WMO, WTO (observer)
Diplomatic representation in the US: Vanuatu does not have an embassy in the US; it does, however, have a Permanent Mission to the UN
Diplomatic representation from the US: the US does not have an embassy in Vanuatu; the ambassador to Papua New Guinea is accredited to Vanuatu
Flag description: two equal horizontal bands of red (top) and green with a black isosceles triangle (based on the hoist side) all separated by a black-edged yellow stripe in the shape of a horizontal Y (the two points of the Y face the hoist side and enclose the triangle); centered in the triangle is a boar’s tusk encircling two crossed namele leaves, all in yellow
Culture Vanuatu culture retains a strong diversity through local regional variations and through foreign influence. Vanuatu may be divided into three major cultural regions. In the north, wealth is established by how much one can give away. Pigs, particularly those with rounded tusks, are considered a symbol of wealth throughout Vanuatu. In the centre, more traditional Melanesian cultural systems dominate. In the south, a system involving grants of title with associated privileges has developed.

Young men undergo various coming-of-age ceremonies and rituals to initiate them into manhood, usually including circumcision.

Most villages have a nakamal or village clubhouse which serves as a meeting point for men and to as a place to drink kava.

Villages also have male and female-only sections. These sections are situated all over the villages, in nakamals, special spaces for females when they are in their menstruation period.

The traditional music of Vanuatu is still thriving in the rural areas of Vanuatu. Musical instruments consist mostly of idiophones: drums of various shape and size, slit gongs, as well as rattles, among others. Another musical genre that has become widely popular during the 20th century in all areas of Vanuatu, is known as string band music. It combines guitars, ukulele, and popular songs. More recently the music of Vanuatu, as an industry, grew rapidly in the 1990s and several bands have forged a distinctive ni-Vanuatu identity. Popular genres of modern commercial music, which are currently being played in town include zouk music and reggaeton. Reggaeton, a variation of hip-hop rapped in Spanish, played alongside its own distinctive beat, is especially played in the local nightclubs of Vanuatu with, mostly, an audience of Westerners and tourists.

There are few prominent ni-Vanuatu authors, but women’s rights activist Grace Mera Molisa, who died in 2002, achieved international notability as a very descriptive poet.

Cricket is very popular in Vanuatu. There are 8000 registered cricketers. Sport varies depending on the gender of those involved. Volleyball is considered a ‘girls’ sport’ and males play soccer.

The cuisine of Vanuatu (aelan kakae) incorporates fish, root vegetables such as taro and yams, fruits, and vegetables. Most island families grow food in their gardens, and food shortages are rare. Papayas, pineapples, mangoes, plantains, and sweet potatoes are abundant through much of the year. Coconut milk and cream are used to flavor many dishes. Most food is cooked using hot stones or through boiling and steaming; very little food is fried.

Economy Economy – overview: This South Pacific island economy is based primarily on small-scale agriculture, which provides a living for over 70% of the population. Fishing, offshore financial services, and tourism, with more than 167,000 visitors in 2007, are other mainstays of the economy. Mineral deposits are negligible; the country has no known petroleum deposits. A small light industry sector caters to the local market. Tax revenues come mainly from import duties. Economic development is hindered by dependence on relatively few commodity exports, vulnerability to natural disasters, and long distances from main markets and between constituent islands. In response to foreign concerns, the government has promised to tighten regulation of its offshore financial center. In mid-2002 the government stepped up efforts to boost tourism through improved air connections, resort development, and cruise ship facilities. Agriculture, especially livestock farming, is a second target for growth. Australia and New Zealand are the main suppliers of tourists and foreign aid.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $1.01 billion (2008 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $560 million (2008 est.)
GDP – real growth rate: 6.5% (2008 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP): $4,700 (2008 est.)
GDP – composition by sector: agriculture: 26%
industry: 12%
services: 62% (2000 est.)
Labor force: 76,410 (1999)
Labor force – by occupation: agriculture: 65%
industry: 5%
services: 30% (2000 est.)
Unemployment rate: 1.7% (1999)
Population below poverty line: NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Budget: revenues: $78.7 million
expenditures: $72.23 million (2005)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 3.9% (2007 est.)
Central bank discount rate: 6% (31 December 2007)
Commercial bank prime lending rate: 8.16% (31 December 2007)
Stock of money: $107.1 million (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money: $421.8 million (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit: $229.5 million (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $NA
Agriculture – products: copra, coconuts, cocoa, coffee, taro, yams, fruits, vegetables; beef; fish
Industries: food and fish freezing, wood processing, meat canning
Industrial production growth rate: 1% (1997 est.)
Electricity – production: 46 million kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity – consumption: 39.99 million kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – exports: 0 kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity – imports: 0 kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity – production by source: fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Oil – production: 0 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil – consumption: 660 bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil – exports: 0 bbl/day (2005)
Oil – imports: 671 bbl/day (2005)
Oil – proved reserves: 0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas – production: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – consumption: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – exports: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – imports: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – proved reserves: 0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance: -$60 million (2007 est.)
Exports: $40 million f.o.b. (2006)
Exports – commodities: copra, beef, cocoa, timber, kava, coffee
Exports – partners: Thailand 58.3%, India 18.5%, Japan 11.3% (2007)
Imports: $156 million c.i.f. (2006)
Imports – commodities: machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, fuels
Imports – partners: Australia 20.7%, Singapore 11.8%, NZ 11.2%, Norway 8.5%, US 8.3%, Fiji 8.1%, China 7.2%, New Caledonia 4.5% (2007)
Economic aid – recipient: $39.48 million (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $40.54 million (2003)
Debt – external: $81.2 million (2004)
Currency (code): vatu (VUV)
Currency code: VUV
Exchange rates: vatu (VUV) per US dollar – NA (2007), 111.93 (2006), NA (2005), 111.79 (2004), 122.19 (2003)
Communications Telephones – main lines in use: 8,800 (2007)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 26,000 (2007)
Telephone system: general assessment: NA
domestic: NA
international: country code – 678; satellite earth station – 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 2, FM 4, shortwave 1 (2001)
Radios: 67,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 1 (2004)
Televisions: 2,300 (1999)
Internet country code: .vu
Internet hosts: 990 (2008)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2000)
Internet users: 17,000 (2007)
Transportation Airports: 31 (2007)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2007)
Airports – with unpaved runways: total: 28
914 to 1,523 m: 6
under 914 m: 22 (2007)
Roadways: total: 1,070 km
paved: 256 km
unpaved: 814 km (1999)
Merchant marine: total: 54
by type: bulk carrier 32, cargo 8, container 1, liquefied gas 2, passenger 1, petroleum tanker 1, refrigerated cargo 4, vehicle carrier 5
foreign-owned: 54 (Australia 2, Belgium 4, Canada 5, Estonia 1, Greece 1, Japan 29, Monaco 1, Poland 7, Russia 2, Switzerland 1, US 1) (2008)
Ports and terminals: Forari, Port-Vila, Santo (Espiritu Santo)
Military Military branches: no regular military forces; Vanuatu Police Force (VPF), Vanuatu Mobile Force (VMF; includes Police Maritime Wing (PMW)) (2008)
Manpower available for military service: males age 16-49: 58,900 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 16-49: 41,533
females age 16-49: 42,837 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually: male: 2,368
female: 2,272 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures: NA
Transnational Issues Disputes – international: Matthew and Hunter Islands east of New Caledonia claimed by Vanuatu and France

The Nations Of Wallis and Futuna

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘CIA FACT BOOK’)

 

Wallis and Futuna

Introduction The Futuna island group was discovered by the Dutch in 1616 and Wallis by the British in 1767, but it was the French who declared a protectorate over the islands in 1842. In 1959, the inhabitants of the islands voted to become a French overseas territory.
History Although the Dutch and the British were the European discoverers of the islands in the 17th and 18th centuries, it was the French who were the first Europeans to settle in the territory, with the arrival of French missionaries in 1837, who converted the population to Roman Catholicism. Wallis is named after the British explorer, Samuel Wallis.

On 5 April 1842, they asked for the protection of France after the rebellion of a part of the local population. On 5 April 1887, the queen of Uvea (on the island of Wallis) signed a treaty officially establishing a French protectorate. The kings of Sigave and Alo on the islands of Futuna and Alofi also signed a treaty establishing a French protectorate on 16 February 1888. The islands were put under the authority of the French colony of New Caledonia.

In 1917, the three traditional chiefdoms were annexed to France and turned into the Colony of Wallis and Futuna, still under the authority of the Colony of New Caledonia.

In 1959, the inhabitants of the islands voted to become a French overseas territory, effective in 1961, thus ending their subordination to New Caledonia.

In 2005, the 50th king, Tomasi Kulimoetoke II, faced being deposed after giving sanctuary to his grandson who was convicted of manslaughter. The king claimed his grandson should be judged by tribal law rather than by the French penal system. There were riots in the streets involving the king’s supporters, which were victorious over attempts to replace the king. Two years later, Tomasi Kulimoetoke died on 7 May 2007. The state was in a six-month period of mourning. During this period, mentioning a successor was forbidden. On 25 July 2008, Kapiliele Faupala was installed as king despite protests from some of the royal clans.

Geography Location: Oceania, islands in the South Pacific Ocean, about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand
Geographic coordinates: 13 18 S, 176 12 W
Map references: Oceania
Area: total: 274 sq km
land: 274 sq km
water: 0 sq km
note: includes Ile Uvea (Wallis Island), Ile Futuna (Futuna Island), Ile Alofi, and 20 islets
Area – comparative: 1.5 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 129 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Climate: tropical; hot, rainy season (November to April); cool, dry season (May to October); rains 2,500-3,000 mm per year (80% humidity); average temperature 26.6 degrees C
Terrain: volcanic origin; low hills
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mont Singavi 765 m
Natural resources: NEGL
Land use: arable land: 7.14%
permanent crops: 35.71%
other: 57.15% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Natural hazards: NA
Environment – current issues: deforestation (only small portions of the original forests remain) largely as a result of the continued use of wood as the main fuel source; as a consequence of cutting down the forests, the mountainous terrain of Futuna is particularly prone to erosion; there are no permanent settlements on Alofi because of the lack of natural fresh water resources
Geography – note: both island groups have fringing reefs
Politics Politics of Wallis and Futuna takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic French overseas collectivity, whereby the President of the Territorial Assembly is the head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government.

The territory of Wallis and Futuna is divided into three traditional chiefdoms (royaumes coutumiers): `Uvea, on the island of Wallis, Sigave, on the western part of the island of Futuna, and Tu`a (Alo), on the island of Alofi and on the eastern part of the island of Futuna. Uvea is further subdivided into three districts: Hanake, Hihifo, and Mua. The capital of the territory is Matâ’Utu on the island of Wallis, the most populated island. As a territory of France, it is governed under the French constitution of September 28, 1958, uses both the French legal system and customary local laws (“coutume”) , and suffrage is universal for those over 18 years of age. The French president elected by popular vote for a five-year term; the high administrator is appointed by the French president on the advice of the French Ministry of the Interior; the presidents of the Territorial Government and the Territorial Assembly are elected by the members of the assembly.

People Population: 15,289 (July 2009 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 26.7% (male 2,141/female 1,935)
15-64 years: 66.3% (male 5,069/female 5,065)
65 years and over: 7.1% (male 488/female 591) (2009 est.)
Median age: total: 27.2 years
male: 26.1 years
female: 28.5 years
Population growth rate: 0.347% (2009 est.)
Birth rate: NA (2008 est.)
Death rate: NA (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -6.08 migrant(s)/1,000 population
note: there has been steady emigration from Wallis and Futuna to New Caledonia (2009 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.11 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.83 male(s)/female
total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 5.02 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 5.27 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 4.75 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 78.2 years
male: 75.22 years
female: 81.32 years (2009 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.87 children born/woman (2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: NA
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: NA
HIV/AIDS – deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Wallisian(s), Futunan(s), or Wallis and Futuna Islanders
adjective: Wallisian, Futunan, or Wallis and Futuna Islander
Ethnic groups: Polynesian
Religions: Roman Catholic 99%, other 1%
Languages: Wallisian 58.9% (indigenous Polynesian language), Futunian 30.1%, French 10.8%, other 0.2% (2003 census)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 50%
male: 50%
female: 50% (1969 est.)
Government Country name: conventional long form: Territory of the Wallis and Futuna Islands
conventional short form: Wallis and Futuna
local long form: Territoire des Iles Wallis et Futuna
local short form: Wallis et Futuna
Dependency status: overseas territory of France
Government type: NA
Capital: name: Mata-Utu (on Ile Uvea)
geographic coordinates: 13 57 S, 171 56 W
time difference: UTC+12 (17 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions: none (overseas territory of France); there are no first-order administrative divisions as defined by the US Government, but there are three kingdoms at the second order named Alo, Sigave, Wallis
Independence: none (overseas territory of France)
National holiday: Bastille Day, 14 July (1789)
Constitution: 4 October 1958 (French Constitution)
Legal system: the laws of France, where applicable, apply
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Nicolas SARKOZY (since 16 May 2007); represented by High Administrator Philippe PAOLANTONI (since 28 July 2008)
head of government: President of the Territorial Assembly Pesamino TAPUTAI (since 11 April 2007)
cabinet: Council of the Territory consists of three kings and three members appointed by the high administrator on the advice of the Territorial Assembly
note: there are three traditional kings with limited powers
elections: French president elected by popular vote for a five-year term; high administrator appointed by the French president on the advice of the French Ministry of the Interior; the presidents of the Territorial Government and the Territorial Assembly are elected by the members of the assembly
Legislative branch: unicameral Territorial Assembly or Assemblee Territoriale (20 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 1 April 2007 (next to be held April 2012)
election results: percent of vote by party – NA; seats by party – UMP 13, other 7
note: Wallis and Futuna elects one senator to the French Senate and one deputy to the French National Assembly; French Senate – elections last held 21 September 2008 (next to be held by September 2014); results – percent of vote by party – NA; seats – UMP 1; French National Assembly – elections last held 17 June 2007 (next to be held by 2012); results – percent of vote by party – NA; seats – PS 1
Judicial branch: justice generally administered under French law by the high administrator, but the three traditional kings administer customary law and there is a magistrate in Mata-Utu; a court of appeal is located in Noumea, New Caledonia
Political parties and leaders: Lua Kae Tahi (Giscardians); Mouvement des Radicaux de Gauche or MRG; Rally for the Republic or RPR (UMP) [Clovis LOGOLOGOFOLAU]; Socialist Party or PS; Taumu’a Lelei [Soane Muni UHILA]; Union Populaire Locale or UPL [Falakiko GATA]; Union Pour la Democratie Francaise or UDF
Political pressure groups and leaders: NA
International organization participation: PIF (observer), SPC, UPU, WFTU
Diplomatic representation in the US: none (overseas territory of France)
Diplomatic representation from the US: none (overseas territory of France)
Flag description: unofficial, local flag has a red field with four white isosceles triangles in the middle, representing the three native kings of the islands and the French administrator; the apexes of the triangles are oriented inward and at right angles to each other; the flag of France, outlined in white on two sides, is in the upper hoist quadrant; the flag of France is the only official flag
Culture The culture of those islands is Polynesian, as is the music. Additionally, the Kailao, often thought of as a Tongan war dance, was imported to Tonga from ‘Uvea.
Economy Economy – overview: The economy is limited to traditional subsistence agriculture, with about 80% of labor force earnings from agriculture (coconuts and vegetables), livestock (mostly pigs), and fishing. About 4% of the population is employed in government. Revenues come from French Government subsidies, licensing of fishing rights to Japan and South Korea, import taxes, and remittances from expatriate workers in New Caledonia.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $60 million (2004 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $NA
GDP – real growth rate: NA%
GDP – per capita (PPP): $3,800 (2004 est.)
GDP – composition by sector: agriculture: NA%
industry: NA%
services: NA%
Labor force: 3,104 (2003)
Labor force – by occupation: agriculture: 80%
industry: 4%
services: 16% (2001 est.)
Unemployment rate: 15.2% (2003)
Population below poverty line: NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Budget: revenues: $29,730
expenditures: $31,330 (2004 est.)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Public debt: 5.6% of GDP (2004 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 2.8% (2005)
Agriculture – products: breadfruit, yams, taro, bananas; pigs, goats; fish
Industries: copra, handicrafts, fishing, lumber
Industrial production growth rate: NA%
Electricity – production: NA kWh
Electricity – consumption: NA kWh
Electricity – exports: 0 kWh (2002)
Electricity – imports: 0 kWh (2002)
Electricity – production by source: fossil fuel: 0%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0%
Exports: $47,450 f.o.b. (2004)
Exports – commodities: copra, chemicals, construction materials
Imports: $61.17 million f.o.b. (2004)
Imports – commodities: chemicals, machinery, passenger ships, consumer goods
Economic aid – recipient: assistance from France, $NA
Debt – external: $3.67 million (2004)
Currency (code): Comptoirs Francais du Pacifique franc (XPF)
Currency code: XPF
Exchange rates: Comptoirs Francais du Pacifique francs (XPF) per US dollar – NA (2007), 95.03 (2006), 95.89 (2005), 96.04 (2004), 105.66 (2003)
Communications Telephones – main lines in use: 1,900 (2002)
Telephones – mobile cellular: NA
Telephone system: general assessment: NA
domestic: NA
international: country code – 681
Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 0, shortwave 0 (2000)
Radios: NA
Television broadcast stations: 2 (2000)
Televisions: NA
Internet country code: .wf
Internet hosts: 1 (2008)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2000)
Internet users: 900 (2002)
Transportation Airports: 2 (2007)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2007)
Airports – with unpaved runways: total: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2007)
Merchant marine: total: 8
by type: chemical tanker 2, passenger 6
foreign-owned: 8 (France 6, French Polynesia 2) (2008)
Ports and terminals: Leava, Mata-Utu
Military Manpower fit for military service: males age 16-49: 3,273
females age 16-49: 3,297 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually: male: 175
female: 164 (2009 est.)
Military – note: defense is the responsibility of France
Transnational Issues Disputes – international: none

‘Lies’ Of Western Powers—(So Says China And Syrian Governments)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI CHINA DAILY NEWS PAPER NOW CALLED THE ‘SHINE’)

 

‘Lies’ of Western powers

Xinhua

SYRIA’S Assistant Foreign Minister Ayman Sussan said Saturday that investigating the chemical weapons allegations in Damascus’ eastern district of Douma will expose the lies of the Western countries.

In an interview with Xinhua, Sussan said it was the Syrian government who invited the inspection experts of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to look into the allegations about the use of chlorine gas in the battles in Douma on April 7 ahead of the withdrawal of the rebels and their families to northern Syria.

“The Syrian government has declared in its invitation letter (to the OPCW), and after the arrival of the (inspection) team, that it will fully cooperate and offer all facilitations for the inspection team to carry out its mission,” he said.

The remarks of Sussan come as the OPCW inspection team arrived in Damascus last Saturday afternoon, just hours after the US, France and Britain launched a series of missiles strikes on Syrian positions in retaliation for an alleged toxic gas attack on the rebels in Douma on April 7.

The Syrian government has condemned the US strikes while denying carrying out such an attack, saying the militants and their foreign allies were making fabrications to justify a strike on Syria. The security team of the UN has entered Douma to assess the situation on the ground as the actual entry of the inspectors hasn’t taken place yet.

In a statement on April 18, the OPCW said the UN security team came “under small arms fire” while conducting a reconnaissance work in Douma and went back to Damascus. The team was spotted entering Douma again on Friday, with no details about the actual visit of the inspectors. In his interview Saturday, the Syrian official said that the decision of visiting Douma by the inspectors is the decision of the OPCW, not the Syrian government, adding that “we respect their justifications.”

“The OPCW team in Damascus has held several meetings with Syrian government, and met with a number of witnesses from inside Douma, including locals, doctors or the medical cadres working in hospitals,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sussan slammed the US and its Western allies for overstepping their boundaries by making their allegations and attacks on Syrian positions ahead of the international investigation into the chemical weapons’ allegations.

“If they are saying that chemical (weapons) were used in Ghouta, and if (US President Donald) Trump or France and Britain really wanted to know the truth, they should have provided appropriate conditions for the OPCW to carry out its mission as it’s the organization involved in this matter, and not to encroach upon the work of the international institutions and launch accusations and verdicts and then implement punishments,” he said.

He stressed that the Western countries will not stop making allegations and claims because they want to thwart the work of any organization.

“The US-led strike aimed to hinder the work of the inspection mission and the West wanted that because the work of the mission will expose their lies,” he said, adding that “the Western powers thought that the strike on Syria would push the Syrian government to react by preventing the mission from entering Douma and that this would indicate that the Syrian government won’t cooperate.”

Kurdish Officials’ Visit to Elysee Triggers French-Turkish Crisis

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Kurdish Officials’ Visit to Elysee Triggers French-Turkish Crisis

Saturday, 31 March, 2018 – 06:45
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: AP
Ankara, Paris- Said Abdul Razek and Michel Abu Najm
Paris was quick on Friday to reassure Ankara after President Emmanuel Macron was misquoted as saying that his country would deploy forces in the northern Syrian city of Manbij.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan quickly responded to the French statements, saying that Manbij would be the next target of his forces to liberate the city from Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG).

Ankara also rejected any French mediation between Turkey and the Syrian Democratic Forces, led by the YPG, which are considered by Turkey as terrorists.

On Thursday, an SDF delegation including Kurdish officials visited the Elysee Palace in Paris.

Macron told the delegation he hoped to build dialogue between the Democratic Forces and Turkey, with the help of France and the international community, according to a communiqué from the Elysee.

However, Turkey completely dismissed the suggestion, as Erdogan said: “We have no need for mediation… We are extremely saddened by France’s… wrong stance on this.”

“Those who go to bed with terrorists, or even host them in their palaces, will sooner or later understand the mistake they’re making,” Erdogan said in Ankara.

He also warned that Ankara did not need a mediator.

“Who are you to mediate between Turkey and a terror group?” Erdogan said at a meeting of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party in the capital, Ankara.

According to the Elysee, Macron reaffirmed the priority of the battle against “the terrorist threat” and assured France’s support to the SDF, particularly in stabilizing the security zone in northeast Syria “to prevent the resurgence of ISIS while awaiting a political solution to the Syrian conflict.”

The French show of support to Kurds is not new. Macron was the first Western leader to warn against the possibility of the Turkish operation in Afrin turning into an “invasion of Syrian territories.”

Paris: 2 Muslim Men Murder 85 Year Old Woman: Holocaust Survivor

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

French to charge two with anti-Semitic murder of 85-year-old Holocaust survivor

After Mireille Knoll found stabbed to death and burned in her Paris apartment, FM Le Drian says France must continue to fight anti-Semitism

Mireille Knoll, 85, a Holocaust survivor who was found murdered in her Paris apartment (Courtesy)

Mireille Knoll, 85, a Holocaust survivor who was found murdered in her Paris apartment (Courtesy)

French authorities said Monday that two men arrested for the brutal killing in Paris of an 85-year-old Jewish woman, Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll, would be charged with an anti-Semitic murder.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said the two suspects have been put in custody. It said it was asking investigating judges to charge the pair with premeditated murder of a vulnerable person for anti-Semitic motives.

They will face possible charges of “murder related to the victim’s religion, real or imagined” as well as aggravated robbery and destruction of property, judicial sources said.

The prosecutor’s office asked that the two be placed in preventive custody.

One of the men was a regular visitor of Knoll whom she treated “like a son” and who had visited her that day, her son Daniel said.

“We are really in shock. I don’t understand how someone could kill a woman who has no money and who lives in a social housing complex,” her son added.

Israel’s Hadashot news reported that this suspect was a former neighbor of Knoll’s who was jailed for sexually assaulting the daughter of a woman who helped look after her. After his release from jail, Knoll complained that he had been threatening her, the TV report said.

The French foreign minister, who is visiting Israel, said it was likely that the motive for her killing was anti-Semitic, and that his country must continue to fight against anti-Semitism.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, said he had a “moving and difficult moment” when he heard about “the outrageous murder” of Holocaust survivor  Knoll in Paris, just after ending his visit to Yad Vashem.

French Foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian visits at the Hall of Names at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, during his official state visit in Israel. March 26, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“We cannot yet say if the motive for the murder was anti-Semitism, but it is reasonable to assume,” Le Drian said. “Therefore, this only strengthens the fact that this struggle has not ended, and that we will need to continue fighting against anti-Semitism.”

The chief rabbi of Paris, Haim Korsia, wrote on Twitter that he was “horrified” by the killing.

Two men have been arrested over the killing of Knoll, whose stabbed body was found after her Paris apartment was set ablaze, police sources said.

One suspect was identified as a 29-year-old man. No details were given on the second suspect.

An autopsy conducted on Knoll, who lived alone, showed her charred body also had at least 11 stab wounds.

A forensic examination of the apartment showed that an arsonist started a fire in at least five distinct areas of that space, the report also said.

Mirelle Knoll, 85, a Holocaust survivor who was found murdered in her Paris apartment (Courtesy)

The Paris prosecutor’s office said that it had not yet determined a motive, but “is not excluding any hypothesis.”

“A preliminary examination of the elements of the crime does not reveal an anti-Semitic characteristic, but this possibility has not been discounted as police investigate further,” said a spokesperson for the Jewish Community Protection Service (SPCJ), which works closely with the French police.

The National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, wrote in a statement Sunday that the suspected murder “is reminiscent of the crime committed against Sarah Halimi,” a 66-year-old Jewish teacher and physician, whom prosecutors say was murdered by her Muslim neighbor in April, partly in connection with her Jewish identity

A granddaughter of Knoll, Noa Goldfarb, wrote on Facebook that her grandmother was murdered by a neighbor who is a Muslim.

“Twenty years ago, I left Paris knowing that neither my future nor that of the Jewish People is to be found there,” wrote Goldfarb, who lives in Herzliya, Israel. “But who would’ve thought that I was leaving my relatives where terrorism and cruelty would lead to such a tragedy. Grandmother was stabbed to death 11 times by a Muslim neighbor she knew well, who made sure to set fire to her home and left us not even one object, a letter, a photograph, to remember her by. All we have are our tears and each other.”

A memorial to the Vel d’Hiv Roundup, on Quai de Grenelle in Paris. (CC BY-SA Leonieke Aalders, Wikimedia commons)

A Paris lawmaker who spoke with one of the woman’s sons said she had managed as a child to evade the notorious 1942 roundup of over 13,000 Jews in Paris during World War II.

Fewer than 100 of those who were detained at the so-called Vel d’Hiv cycling track and then sent to the Nazi death camps survived.

The CRIF umbrella grouping of French Jewish organizations urged “the fullest transparency” by the authorities investigating the killing, “so that the motive of this barbarous crime is known as quickly as possible.”

France’s half-a-million-plus Jewish community has voiced increasing concern over a rise in violent anti-Semitic acts.

Sarah Halimi (Courtesy of the Confédération des Juifs de France et des amis d’Israël)

“The barbarity of this murder sends us back to that of Sarah Halimi, just one year ago,” Francis Kalifat, president of the CRIF umbrella of French Jewish communities, said in a statement Monday.

Halimi was a 66-year-old Jewish teacher and physician, whom prosecutors say was murdered by her Muslim neighbor in April partly in connection with her Jewish identity. Anti-Semtisim was included in the indictment against Halimi’s suspcted killer, Kobili Traore, 28, after CRIF and BNVCA vocally protested its absence from the draft document.

“CRIF expects total transparency in the current investigation, so that the motives for this barbaric crime are known by all as fast as possible,” Kalifat added in the statement about Knoll.

READ MORE:

Arnaud Beltrame, French cop who ‘died a hero’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE LOCAL FRENCH’)

 

Arnaud Beltrame, French cop who ‘died a hero’

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Arnaud Beltrame, French cop who 'died a hero'
Photo: LA GAZETTE DE LA MANCHE / AFP
The heroic French policeman who died Saturday after offering himself as a hostage in a jihadist siege at a supermarket was an elite officer who had been decorated for his bravery in Iraq.

Lieutenant-Colonel Arnaud Beltrame, 45, took the place of a woman who gunman Radouane Lakdim was holding as a final hostage in the Super U store in the quiet southwest town of Trebes on Friday.

A senior officer in the gendarmerie, a police force which is part of the French military, Beltrame hoped to be able to negotiate with Lakdim once the 50 shoppers and staff caught up in the siege had been taken to safety.

He left his telephone on a table to allow authorities to hear what was happening inside.

But Lakdim, who claimed allegiance to the Islamic State group, shot and stabbed him, prompting a police raid that left the attacker dead. Beltrame succumbed to his wounds early Saturday.

President Emmanuel Macron led a flood of tributes to Beltrame, who had served for four years protecting the presidential palace in the 2000s.

“Lieutenant-Colonel Beltrame displayed exceptional calm in the heat of the moment and showed the virtue of our security forces in astonishing fashion,” Macron said.

The officer, who was married with no children, “died a hero”, the president said.

Beltrame’s brother Cedric said he would have known all too well the risk he was taking.

“He certainly knew he didn’t stand a chance,” he said.

“He gave his life for another.”

And Beltrame’s mother, who has not been named, she was unsurprised her son would put others’ lives before his own.

“He was always like that — he’s someone who ever since he was born did everything for his country,” she told RTL radio.

“He would tell me, ‘Mum, I do my job. That’s all.'”

By poignant coincidence, Beltrame had simulated a terrorist attack at a supermarket in December as a training exercise, in his role as deputy chief of the gendarmerie in the local Aude region.

He graduated in 1999 from France’s top military college, Saint-Cyr, where his superiors described him as someone who “fought until the end and never gave up”, Macron said.

He was one of just a handful of candidates chosen to join the gendarmerie’s elite GSIGN force in 2003 and was deployed to Iraq in 2005, where he won a Cross for Military Valour.

He joined the Republican Guard protecting the presidential palace after returning from Iraq, and also worked as an advisor to the environment ministry.

He had been named just last year as deputy chief of the gendarmerie in the Aude, where Lakdim unleashed his shooting spree in the medieval town of Carcassonne before driving to the supermarket in nearby Trebes.

“His leadership abilities and his dedication were appreciated by everyone, notably in developing the anti-terror capacity of the gendarmerie in the Aude,” Macron said.

Flags flew at half-mast at gendarmerie bases across France on Saturday.

Anne-Marie Bonnet was among a flock of local residents coming to lay flowers at Beltrame’s base in Carcassonne, where a white rose hung at the door.

“We want to thank him for what she did,” she said. “It was a heroic gesture and I’d rather we talk about him than the other one,” she said of the attacker.

Beltrame is the seventh member of France’s security forces to be killed in a jihadist attack since 2012.

France is a member of the US-led coalition that has fought the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, and soldiers and police have often found themselves the target in domestic attacks.

READ ALSO: France mourns death of hero gendarme who took place of supermarket hostage

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French consular employee charged in Gaza gun-running scheme

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

French consular employee charged in Gaza gun-running scheme

Prosecutors say Romain Franck knew he could take advantage of lax checks on his diplomatic vehicle to spirit dozens of pistols and two rifles from the Strip to the West Bank

French consulate worker Romain Franck, a French employee of France's Consulate in Jerusalem, covers his face during a hearing at the district court in in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, March 19, 2018. (Sebastian Scheiner/AP)

French consulate worker Romain Franck, a French employee of France’s Consulate in Jerusalem, covers his face during a hearing at the district court in in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, March 19, 2018. (Sebastian Scheiner/AP)

An employee at the French consulate in Jerusalem was indicted on Monday for using a diplomatic vehicle to smuggle dozens of guns from Gaza to the West Bank.

In addition to Romain Franck, five residents of the West Bank and East Jerusalem were also charged. A total of nine suspects have been arrested in the case.

According to the indictment, Franck, 24, was aware of the reduced security checks for vehicles with diplomatic license plates, which he allegedly used to illegally transport weapons out of Gaza and into the West Bank.

Franck, who worked as a driver at the consulate, spoke through an interpreter to confirm his identity during the brief court appearance. Two French diplomats were at the court to monitor the proceedings.

He allegedly made five smuggling runs, bringing 70 pistols and two assault rifles to the West Bank from a Palestinian employee at the French Cultural Center in Gaza, Zuheir Abed Abdeen. A contact in the West Bank then sold the weapons to other arms dealers, investigators say.

French consulate in Jerusalem employee Romain Franck. (Shin Bet)

Franck was already transporting various valuables in his car on behalf of Abdeen when in September 2017 the Palestinian propositioned him to join a gun-running ring run by Gaza resident Mahmad Jamil al-Haladi, the indictment said.

Franck later brought Mahmad Siad, an Israeli citizen employed at the French consulate in Jerusalem, into the operation and the two would allegedly travel together to deliver the weapons in the West Bank.

Prosecutors say Franck would usually take delivery of the guns from Aabdin and then place them in the trunk of his vehicle. At the border checks he would then falsely declare that all of the bags belonged to him or his passengers and that he was not carrying any weapons.

He was paid several thousand shekels for each delivery, depending on the number of guns he carried across the border.

The Shin Bet security agency said Franck was motivated by financial gain and that his superiors at the French consulate in Jerusalem were unaware of his actions. He was arrested February 15, but the case only became public on Sunday.

Details of the case were released hours ahead of the arraignment Monday, days before French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was set to visit Israel.

Among the others indicted Monday were East Jerusalem residents Moufak al-Ajluni and Mohamed Katout.

French national Romain Franck (R), 24, a worker at the French consulate, and Palestinians Moufak al-Ajluni (L) and Mohamed Katout (C) appear in court in the Israeli city of Haifa on March 19, 2018, to face charges of smuggling guns from Gaza (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)

The Foreign Ministry earlier denounced the “very serious” arms smuggling charges against Franck but said the incident would not compromise diplomatic ties between the two countries.

“This is a very grave incident in which the immunity and privileges granted to foreign missions in Israel was cynically exploited for smuggling,” a Shin Bet official said, adding the weapons could have been used in attacks on civilians and security forces.

Echoing the Shin Bet, the Foreign Ministry said “this is a very serious incident which we are treating severely.”

It also thanked French authorities for cooperating with the investigation.

“The ties with France are excellent and the affair doesn’t adversely affect them,” the Foreign Ministry stressed.

A spokesman for France’s embassy in Israel said on Sunday that “we take this case very seriously and are in close contact with the Israeli authorities.”

Franck “has benefited and continues to enjoy the consular protection” provided to French nationals, he said.

According to the Le Monde daily, France won’t block prosecution, but Franck may serve his sentence in France and not Israel.

AFP contributed to this report.

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