Anti-Putin protest draws tens of thousands in Russia


By Alissa de Carbonnel and Thomas Grove

MOSCOW | Sat Sep 15, 2012 10:26am EDT

(Reuters) – Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched though Moscow under streaming banners, flags and balloons on Saturday to demand an end to President Vladimir Putin‘s long rule and to breathe life into their protest movement.

Protesters chanted “Russia without Putin!” as they marched through central Moscow in the first big rally since June.

Witnesses said opposition leaders appeared to have achieved their goal of attracting at least 50,000 people, enough to maintain the momentum of their movement but almost certainly too few to increase alarm in the Kremlin.

The protest underlined anger over what liberal Russians see as tough measures to smother the opposition since Putin began another six years in the Kremlin in May, but protests have not taken off outside big cities and the opposition is not united.

“Our main aim is to force the authorities to start a dialogue. The summer has gone, three months since our last march. Not a single demand has been met … on the contrary, repressions have only gathered pace, more people have been arrested,” far-left leader Sergei Udaltsov said. Continue reading

Chinese leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping appears in public after 14-day absence


Xi Jinping (centre) chats with children at China Agricultural University in Beijing after an unexplained two-week absence. Photograph: Lan Hongguang/Xinhua Press/Corbis

 Beijing university tour and speech follows unexplained two-week absence that sparked rumours of ill health affecting succession

Associated Press, Saturday 15 September 2012 14.03 BST


Chinese leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping has reappeared in public and made an impromptu speech following a two-week absence that had sparked rumours about his health and raised questions about the stability of the country’s succession process.

State media said Xi toured exhibits at China Agricultural University in Beijing commemorating National Science Popularisation Day, but offered no explanation of why he had dropped from sight.

Photographs posted on the government’s official website showed Xi walking in the sunshine dressed casually in an open-necked shirt and black coat. Another photo showed him smiling as he looked at potted plants, showing no sign of disability or ill health.

A lengthy Chinese-language report from the official Xinhua news agency did not address why Xi had not been seen publicly since 1 September, when he made a speech at the ruling Communist party’s official training academy. Continue reading

Anti-American fury sweeps Middle East over film


KHARTOUM/TUNIS | Sat Sep 15, 2012 12:35pm EDT

 (Reuters) – Fury about a film that insults the Prophet Mohammad tore across the Middle East after weekly prayers on Friday with protesters attacking U.S. embassies and burning American flags as the Pentagon rushed to bolster security at its missions.

At least seven people were killed as local police struggled to repel assaults after weekly Muslim prayers in Tunisia and Sudan, while there was new violence in Egypt and Yemen and across the Muslim world, driven by emotions ranging from piety to anger at Western power to frustrations with local leaders and poverty.

A Taliban attack on a base in Afghanistan that killed two Americans may also have been timed to coincide with protests.

But three days after the amateurish film of obscure origin triggered an attack on the U.S. consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi that killed the ambassador and three other Americans on September 11, President Barack Obama led a ceremony to honor the returning dead and vowed to “stand fast” against the violence. Continue reading

China’s naval show of strength raises stakes in island dispute with Japan


Demonstrators wave Chinese national flags during a protest outside the Japanese embassy in Beijing on Sept. 14, 2012. (David Gray/REUTERS)

It has long been assumed that China and Japan, despite their historic and unresolved enmity, are far too intertwined economically to ever again come to blows. The current leaders in Beijing and Tokyo seem intent on putting that theory to the test.

 Tensions between East Asia’s two biggest military and economic powers soared Friday as six Chinese patrol ships entered waters controlled by Japan, declaring they were enforcing new territorial “baselines” established this week by Beijing around islands claimed by both governments. The ships were shadowed at close range for about nine hours by vessels from the Japanese coast guard – with each side calling on the other leave “their” territorial waters – until the Chinese ships finally pulled back. Continue reading

Pope Benedict arrives in Lebanon at time of Christian-Muslim tension


JAMAL SAIDIamal Saidi/Reuters – Pope Benedict XVI waves as he arrives at Beirut’s airport on Sept. 14, 2012.

By Babak Dehghanpisheh,  Updated: Friday, September 14, 5:15 PM


BEIRUT- Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Lebanon for a three-day visit on Friday, showing support for Christians across the region at a time of great turmoil.  

The pope’s visit, his fourth to the Middle East, comes as Christians in Syria, Egypt and Lebanon are expressing fears of a threat from conservative Muslims emboldened by the sweeping changes brought about by the Arab Spring


A rumor roundup about the film that has set off protests.


Those fears were heightened this week, as violent protests spurred by a film mocking the prophet Muhammad — a film being promoted by radical members of the Coptic Christian community — swept the Muslim world. A new wave of anti-U.S. demonstrations was underway Friday, including in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.

President Michael Suleiman, who is Christian, greeted the pope at Beirut’s airport, along with the Lebanese prime minister and speaker of parliament. The pontiff’s arrival is likely to resonate deeply with Christians in neighboring Syria, who have tried to stay on the sidelines of the brutal civil conflict raging there, but have been dragged in nonetheless and even directly targeted at times.  Continue reading

Egyptians clash with police barring way to U.S. embassy

Fri, Sep 14 08:14 AM EDT


By Edmund Blair

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egyptians angry at a film they said was blasphemous to Islam on Friday hurled stones at a line of police in Cairo blocking the route to the U.S. embassy, where demonstrators climbed the walls and tore down the American flag earlier this week.

“God is greatest” and “There is no god but God”, one group near the front of the clashes chanted, as police in riot gear fired tear gas and threw stones back in a street leading from Tahrir Square to the embassy nearby.

About 300 people had gathered to protest, some waving flags with religious slogans. State media reported that 224 people had been injured since Wednesday night. The initial protest, in which the embassy walls were scaled, took place on Tuesday.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the group that propelled President Mohamed Mursi to power, had called for a peaceful nationwide protest against the film on Friday after it sparked demonstrations across the region. Many Muslims regard any depiction of the Prophet Mohammad as blasphemous.

The U.S. ambassador in Libya was killed by gunmen on Tuesday and the U.S. mission in Yemen was attacked by protesters on Thursday.

Mursi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, has to strike a delicate balance, fulfilling a pledge to protect the embassy of a major aid donor while also being seen by his Islamist backers to take a strong line against the film.

Mursi said on Thursday he had spoken to U.S. President Barack Obama and had asked him to act against those seeking to harm relations. His Cabinet said Washington was not to blame for the film but urged legal action against those insulting religion.

“Before the police, we were attacked by Obama, and his government, and the Coptic Christians living abroad,” shouted one protester, wearing a traditional robe and long beard favored by some ultra-orthodox Muslims, as he pointed to the police cordon.

Egypt‘s Coptic Orthodox church has condemned what it said were Copts abroad who had financed the film.


In the middle of the street lay an overturned and burnt out car. Behind the police line, the authorities had erected a wall of large concrete blocks barring access to the fortress-like embassy, which is close to Tahrir, the center of protests against ousted former President Hosni Mubarak and the scene of many demonstrations since. Continue reading