Friday, March 18, 2011

At Least 40 Protesters Are Killed in Yemen

Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

A medic helped an injured anti-government protester in Sana on Friday.
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SANA, Yemen — Security forces and government supporters opened fire on demonstrators in the capital on Friday, killing at least 40 people, according to a doctor at a makeshift hospital near the scene. But the crackdown failed to disperse the protest, the largest seen so far in the center of the city.

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President Ali Abdullah Saleh declared a state of emergency shortly after the violence, and denied that security forces had been involved in any shooting.

The level of violence dwarfed that seen in previous clashes during weeks of large protests in cities around Yemen calling for Mr. Saleh’s immediate ouster.

By escalating its violent response, the government appeared to take up the same playbook that Libya and Bahrain have followed this week. The move opened a troubling new chapter for Yemen, a strife-torn nation that is home to one of Al Qaeda’s most active affiliates and has been an American ally in the fight against terrorism.

At a news conference in Sana, Mr. Saleh claimed that the clashes on Friday were between “citizens and demonstrators” and that “the police were not present and did not open fire.”

President Obama condemned violence in a written statement that called on President Saleh “to adhere to his public pledge to allow demonstrations to take place peacefully.” He added: “Those responsible for today’s violence must be held accountable.”

The death toll rose through the afternoon as some of the more than 200 people who were wounded by gunfire, or by rocks hurled by government supporters, succumbed to their injuries, according to the doctor, Muhammed Rizq, and others at a makeshift hospital near the protest site. The majority of those killed had been shot in the head or neck, doctors said.

Despite the heavy toll, the protesters in Sana kept control of a lengthening portion of Ring Road, which stretches from Sana University to a central highway overpass, as the shooting appeared to halt in the middle of the afternoon.

The security forces that had massed at the protest’s south end then began to pull back into the city center, firing tear gas as hundreds of protesters gave chase, hurling rocks. People in apartments overlooking the action tossed onions down to the protesters for them to use to relieve the effects of the tear gas.

Before the shooting, the protest had swelled to tens of thousands of people and stretched for a mile from its center at Sana University.

The violence began almost immediately after the protesters’ noon prayers, conducted en masse in the street. As they rose, government supporters in plain clothes opened fire from rooftops and windows that southern end of the protest, while security forces fired guns and a water cannon, apparently in an effort to keep demonstrators from moving further into the center of the capital.

A heavy cloud of black smoke over the downtown commercial district at the southern end of the demonstration as government supporters burned protesters’ tents shortly before shooting started.

Though many moved north along Ring Road and away from the fighting, a crowd of mostly tribal men from the outskirts of the capital stood firm. A man walked through the crowd with a microphone yelling, “Peaceful, peaceful! Don’t be afraid of the bullets!”

Then the shooting appeared to stop, and the security forces withdrew about a mile down the wet, rock-strew road.

Scores of injured men were carried in bloody blankets through the crowd of protesters to a mosque that had been turned into a makeshift hospital, with the dead and wounded lying on its floor. Many of the wounded appeared to have been hurt by rocks as well as bullets.

Some of the men in the protest raided buildings where gunmen had been seen. The men peeked out of windows and flashed peace signs to indicate to the crowd below that they were not, themselves, snipers. Flames erupted from a building said to have housed a sniper.

In several raids at a far edge of the protest, men said to be a snipers were caught and beaten by angry demonstrators. Protesters pulled one suspected sniper from an apartment overlooking the demonstration, and said that they found military uniforms and Defense Ministry identification in the apartment.

With the violence spreading, many people in central Sana took cover. “Today is the worst day; this is a new Qaddafi,” said Khalil al-Zekry, who hunkered down in his video shop along the protest route.

Tensions have increased in the capital. Clashes broke out last weekend at the continuing sit-in near the university. But during those clashes, the security forces generally used tear gas and fired into the air rather than at protesters.

In an attempt to quell opposition, Mr. Saleh has offered concessions, including a promise not to run for a new term in 2013 and a proposal to hand over some powers to Parliament. But demonstrators and the political opposition have rejected his proposals, out of suspicion that Mr. Saleh, an American ally in the fight against terrorism, would find a way to extend his 32-year-rule once protests subsided.

Before Friday, at least 40 protesters had been killed in weeks of demonstrations across the country. Most of those deaths occurred in the restive southern port city of Aden, where protests have focused on seceding from the nation rather forcing Mr. Saleh from power.

Ibrahim Raja, an accountant who had protested against Mr. Saleh’s rule on Friday but then fled the violence, stressed the peaceful nature of the demonstrations in the capital, opening his coat to show that he had no weapon. The Yemeni population, among the poorest in the Arab world, is also among the most heavily armed.

“All of us have a weapon in house,” he said. “None of us have our weapons here.”

Another protester, Abdul-Ghani Soliman, said he was not surprised by the violence.

“I actually expect more than this, because freedom requires martyrs,” said Mr. Soliman, an unemployed tribesman from outside Sana. “This will continue, and it will grow.”

Declaration of Cease-Fire Is Not Enough

Allies Press Libya, Saying Declaration of Cease-Fire Is Not Enough

WASHINGTON — The United States, Britain and France pushed forward against Libya on Friday as they declared that a cease-fire abruptly announced by Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s government was not enough, at least for now, to ward off military action against his forces.

Jason Decrow/Associated Press

Member states voted to approve a resolution that will impose a no-fly zone over Libya during a meeting of the Security Council. Russia abstained.

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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, echoing remarks hours earlier by Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, said in Washington on Friday morning that the United States would be “not responsive or impressed by words.”‘ She said that the allies would “have to see actions on the ground, and that is not yet at all clear.”

Those actions included, she said, a clear move by Colonel Qaddafi’s forces away from the east, where they were threatening a final assault on the rebels’ stronghold in Benghazi.

Only hours after the United Nations Security Council voted late Thursday to authorize military action and a no-fly zone, Libya executed a remarkable about-face on Friday, saying it would call an “immediate cease-fire and the stoppage of all military operations” against rebels seeking to oust Colonel Qaddafi.

But people fleeing the eastern city of Ajdabiya said government forces were still bombing and conducting other assaults at 4 p.m. local time.

A spokesman for the rebels, Mustafa Gheriani, said that attacks continued against both that city and Misurata, in the west, according to news agency reports. “He’s bombing Misurata and Ajdabiya from 7 a.m. this morning until now,” Mr. Gehriani said, according to The Associated Press.

The announcement of cease-fire came from Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa after Western powers said they were preparing imminent airstrikes to prevent Libyan forces from launching a threatened final assault on Benghazi.

In London, Mr. Cameron told the BBC of Colonel Qaddafi: “We will judge him by his actions, not his words.”

Mr. Cameron told the House of Commons that the British Air Force would deploy Tornado jets and Eurofighter Typhoon warplanes, “as well as air-to-air refueling and surveillance aircraft.”

“Preparations to deploy these have already started, and in the coming hours they will move to airbases from where they can take the necessary action,” Mr. Cameron said.

The Typhoon is a fighter jet armed with air-to-air missiles for shooting down airplanes, as well as laser-guided bombs for targets on the ground. The Tornado is especially well suited for attacking runways — that was its first combat mission, in the Persian Gulf war, when the planes swooped in to bomb runways in Iraq, facing thick anti-aircraft defenses that shot down several of the planes.

In Paris the French foreign ministry spokesman, Bernard Valero, said that Colonel Qaddafi “begins to be afraid, but on the ground, the threat hasn’t changed.” He added, “We have to be very cautious.”

Earlier Fran├žois Baroin, a French government spokesman, told RTL radio that action would come “rapidly,” perhaps within hours, after the United Nations resolution authorized “all necessary measures” to protect civilians.

But he insisted the military action was “not an occupation of Libyan territory.” Rather, he said, it was intended to protect the Libyan people and “allow them to go all the way in their drive, which means bringing down the Qaddafi regime.”

Other French officials said that Mr. Baroin was speaking to heighten the warning to Colonel Qaddafi, and that in fact any military action was not that imminent, but was still being coordinated with allies including Britain and the United States.

Obama administration officials said that allied action against Libya had to include the participation of Arab countries and were insistent, as one senior official put it, that the red, green and black of Arab nations’ flags be prominent in military operations. As of Thursday night, the United States said it had firm commitments from both Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to contribute fighter jets to the effort, and that Jordan had also agreed to take part, although to what extent was not yet clear by Friday.

The administration also spoke to Egyptian officials about taking part but Egypt — the leading military power of the Arab world — was concerned that air strikes could endanger some million Egyptians who live in Libya. In addition, protesters only last month toppled the 30-year regime of President Hosni Mubarak and Egypt’s transitional military government remains fragile.

Administration officials said it remained unclear on Friday morning which country would take the lead as the air traffic controller of an operation that might involve waves of fighter jets from multiple countries in the skies above Libya, taking turns or at the same time. But the United States was expected to play a major role, as were Britain and France.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Mr. Cameron will attend a meeting in Paris on Saturday with European, European Union, African Union and Arab League officials to discuss Libya, Mr. Sarkozy’s office announced. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations will also take part, his office said.

The fallout

Japan's hydra-headed disaster

The fallout

Some natural disasters change history. Japan’s tsunami could be one

THAT “tsunami” is one of the few Japanese words in global use points to the country’s familiarity with natural disaster. But even measured against Japan’s painful history, its plight today is miserable. The magnitude-9 earthquake—the largest ever in the country’s history, equivalent in power to 30,000 Hiroshimas—was followed by a wave which wiped out whole towns. With news dribbling out from stricken coastal communities, the scale of the horror is still sinking in. The surge of icy water shoved the debris of destroyed towns miles inland, killing most of those too old or too slow to scramble to higher ground (see article). The official death toll of 5,429 will certainly rise. In several towns over half the population has drowned or is missing.

In the face of calamity, a decent people has proved extremely resilient: no looting; very little complaining among the tsunami survivors. In Tokyo people queued patiently to meet their tax deadlines. Everywhere there was a calm determination to conjure a little order out of chaos. Volunteers have rushed to help. The country’s Self-Defence Forces, which dithered in response to the Kobe earthquake in 1995, have poured into the stricken area. Naoto Kan, the prime minister, who started the crisis with very low public support, has so far managed to keep a semblance of order in the country, despite a series of calamities that would challenge even the strongest of leaders. The government’s inept handling of the Kobe disaster did much to undermine Japan’s confidence in itself.

The wider concern

The immediate tragedy may be Japan’s; but it also throws up longer-term questions that will eventually affect people all the way round the globe. Stockmarkets stumbled on fears about the impact on the world’s third-biggest economy. Japan’s central bank seems to have stilled talk of financial panic with huge injections of liquidity. Early estimates of the total damage are somewhat higher than the $100 billion that Kobe cost, but not enough to wreck a rich country. Disruption to electricity supplies will damage growth, and some Asian supply chains are already facing problems; but new infrastructure spending will offset some of the earthquake’s drag on growth.

Those calculations could change dramatically if the nuclear crisis worsens. As The Economist went to press, helicopters were dropping water to douse overheating nuclear fuel stored at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, where there have been explosions, fires and releases of radiation greater, it seems, than the Japanese authorities had admitted. The country’s nuclear industry has a long history of cover-ups and incompetence, and—notwithstanding the heroism of individual workers—the handling of the crisis by TEPCO, the nuclear plant’s operator, is sadly in line with its past performance.

Even if the nuclear accident is brought under control swiftly, and the release of radiation turns out not to be large enough to damage public health, this accident will have a huge impact on the nuclear industry, both inside and outside Japan. Germany has already put on hold its politically tricky decision to extend the life of its nuclear plants. America’s faltering steps towards new reactors look sure to be set back, not least because new concerns will mean greater costs.

China has announced a pause in its ambitious plans for nuclear growth. With 27 reactors under construction, more than twice as many as any other country, China accounts for almost half the world’s current nuclear build-out—and it has plans for 50 more reactors. And in the long term the regime looks unlikely to be much deterred from these plans—and certainly not by its public’s opinion, whatever that might be. China has a huge thirst for energy that it will slake from as many wells as it can, with planned big increases in wind power and in gas as well as the nuclear build-out and ever more coal-fired plants.

Thus the great nuclear dilemma. For the best nuclear safety you need not just good planning and good engineering. You need the sort of society that can produce accountability and transparency, one that can build institutions that receive and deserve trust. No nuclear nation has done this as well as one might wish, and Japan’s failings may well become more evident. But democracies are better at building such institutions. At the same time, however, democracy makes it much easier for a substantial and implacable minority to make sure things don’t happen, and that seems likely to be the case with plans for more nuclear power. Thus nuclear power looks much more likely to spread in societies that are unlikely to ground it in the enduring culture of safety that it needs. China’s nearest competitor in the new-build stakes is Russia.

Yet democracies would be wrong to turn their back on nuclear power. It still has the advantages of offering reliable power, a degree of energy security, and no carbon dioxide emissions beyond those incurred in building and supplying the plants. In terms of lives lost it has also boasted, to date, a reasonably good record. Chernobyl’s death toll is highly uncertain, but may have reached a few thousand people. China’s coal mines certainly kill 2,000-3,000 workers a year, and coal-smogged air there and elsewhere kills many more. It remains a reasonable idea for most rich countries to keep some nuclear power in their portfolio, not least because by maintaining economic and technological stakes in nuclear they will have more standing to insist on high standards for safety and non-proliferation being applied throughout the world. But in the face of panic, of sinister towers of smoke, of invisible and implacable threats, the reasonable course is not an easy one.

Back to Tokyo

No country faces that choice more painfully than Japan, scarred by nuclear energy but also deprived of native alternatives. To abandon nuclear power is to commit the country to massive imports of gas and perhaps coal. To keep it is to face and overcome a national trauma and to accept a small but real risk of another disaster.

Japan’s all too frequent experience of calamity suggests that such events are often followed by great change. After the earthquake of 1923, it turned to militarism. After its defeat in the second world war, and the dropping of the atom bombs, it espoused peaceful growth. The Kobe earthquake reinforced Japan’s recent turning in on itself.

This new catastrophe seems likely to have a similarly huge impact on the nation’s psyche. It may be that the Japanese people’s impressive response to disaster, and the rest of the world’s awe in the face of their stoicism, restores the self-confidence the country so badly needs. It may be that the failings of its secretive system of governance, exemplified by the shoddy management of its nuclear plants, lead to more demands for political reform. As long as Mr Kan can convince the public that the government’s information on radiation is trustworthy, and that it can ease the cold and hunger of tsunami survivors, his hand may be strengthened to further liberalise Japan. Or it may be that things take a darker turn.

The stakes are high. Japan—a despondent country with a dysfunctional political system—badly needs change. It seems just possible that, looking back from a safe distance, Japan’s people will regard this dreadful moment not just as a time of death, grief and mourning, but also as a time of rebirth.

And now for another war

Into Libya

And now for another war

by Lexington

DISTRACTED by the tsunami and nuclear catastrophe in Japan, American punditry lost sight for a while of the negotiations taking place in the UN Security Council. So it was with something of a surprise that Washington awoke this morning to discover that the council had authorised "all necessary means", including a no-fly zone, to protect Libya's population from Colonel Muammar Qaddafi. By comparison with the year or more of angst that preceded George Bush's invasion of Iraq in 2003, the pros and cons of this decision have received remarkably little debate.

One explanation for the speed of the decision is that, unlike the case in Iraq, time is of the essence: Colonel Qaddafi's forces are on the rampage now, whereas in 2003 Saddam Hussein's far worse atrocities were far behind him and the invasion was not launched in order to resolve an immediate humanitarian crisis. But the upshot is that the aims of the coalition now preparing for action are utterly confused. Is the mission to freeze the respective forces in place or to create conditions in which the rebel forces can eventually topple the dictator?

The other big uncertainty is how much America will be involved. It seems that Britain and France will take the lead, with token help from a couple of Arab air forces. Maybe Qaddafi's forces will melt away as soon as they face serious military opposition. Or maybe, despite his promises to fight to the death, he will decide to negotiate a safe exit to retirement in Latin America. His first reaction has been to announce an immediate ceasefire. But what if it does not hold, and the subsequent fight is dragged out? In that case President Obama's evident desire for America to take a back seat may well be thwarted. The Europeans' small air forces cannot match the reach and firepower of America's—and having demanded that Qaddafi must go Mr Obama's own reputation is now on the line.

For what it is worth, I welcome the fact that the world at last seems willing to exercise its so-called "duty to protect" people at risk from their own governments. The failures to do so in Rwanda and Darfur and so many other charnel houses is a blot on its conscience that will never be erased. But there is no escaping the fact that this new entanglement was decided upon behind closed doors at the UN and with very little public debate here in the United States. None of this will matter if the end comes quickly. But if things go wrong and America is drawn deeper in, the domestic consequences for the president could be far-reaching.

China Raises Bank Reserve Requirement for Third

China Raises Bank Reserve Requirement for Third Time in 2011 on Inflation


China Raises Bank Reserve Requirements to Cool Inflation

The proportion of lenders’ deposits that must be parked with the central bank will increase half a percentage point from March 25, the People’s Bank of China said on its website. Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

China raised banks’ reserve requirements for the third time this year, judging that inflation remains a bigger threat to the world’s second-largest economy than Japan’s earthquake and nuclear crisis.

The proportion of lenders’ deposits that must be parked with the central bank will increase half a percentage point from March 25, the People’s Bank of China said on its website today. The requirement will rise to 20 percent for the nation’s biggest banks, excluding any extra limits for individual lenders.

Premier Wen Jiabao has set taming inflation as the nation’s top economic priority this year, citing “exorbitant” house- price increases and risks to social stability. China follows India, which yesterday raised interest rates, in tightening monetary policy even after Japan’s crisis roiled global stock markets and threatened to disrupt supply chains across Asia.

“This move, coming after the Indian rate hike yesterday, is another sign that the tragic events in Japan are unlikely to have a significant impact on policy decisions elsewhere in Asia,” said Brian Jackson, an emerging-markets strategist at Royal Bank of Canada in Hong Kong. “Uncomfortably strong inflation throughout the region suggests that more policy action is required.”

Crude oil pared gains and copper fell after the announcement. The move may lock up about 350 billion yuan ($53 billion), according to Australia & New Zealand Banking Group.

Reining in Credit

An interest-rate increase for China is “a couple of weeks away,” said Shen Jianguang, a Hong Kong-based economist at Mizuho Securities Asia Ltd. He said the reserve-ratio increase was to soak up money as central-bank bills matured. Shen estimated that annual inflation may accelerate to 6 percent this month, the fastest pace since July 2008.

The benchmark one-year lending rate stands at 6.06 percent after three increases since mid-October. The government is aiming to rein in credit growth after a record 17.5 trillion yuan ($2.7 trillion) of lending over 2009 and 2010.

“ This is clear evidence that the tightening agenda is still alive in China and signals that when nerves have settled, we will get more interest rate hikes,” said Stephen Green, a Shanghai-based economist for Standard Chartered Plc.

People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan said this month that rates will be used to curb inflation, and played down the role of currency gains, which U.S. officials have encouraged China to use as a tool.

Consumer prices rose at an annual 4.9 percent pace in February and output increased 14 percent in the first two months of 2011, according to the statistics bureau. Producer prices jumped 7.2 percent last month, the most since September 2008.

Inflation has topped the government’s 4 percent target for this year for each of the past five months.

--Zheng Lifei, with assistance from Sophie Leung. Editors: Paul Panckhurst, Stephanie Phang.

Tokyo Is Stoic Amid Japan-Is-Doomed Reports

Tokyo Is Stoic Amid Japan-Is-Doomed Reports: William Pesek

Pesek

William Pesek

March 18 (Bloomberg) -- Stephen Roach, non-executive chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia Ltd., Mohamed El-Erian, chief executive officer of Pacific Investment Management Co., and U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner speak about the economic impact of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan on the country and the rest of the world. This report also includes comments from Joao Vale de Almeida, the European Union's ambassador to the U.S., Citigroup Inc.'s Willem Buiter and Credit Suisse Asset Management's Stefan Keitel. (Source: Bloomberg)

Of all the things I expected to experience in Tokyo, hugging three Japanese female strangers in their 70s was never part of the plan.

This city is no-public-display-of-affection central. The anti-Paris when it comes to spontaneous gestures of intimacy. When the ground begins to shake, protocol is the first casualty. So, when a big aftershock hit Shinjuku train station, we four panicked strangers joined arms and squeezed for dear life.

We quickly came to our senses when the shaking stopped, giggled nervously and parted ways. The point is that Tokyoites are out and about. We are all living our lives as best we can, notwithstanding the hyperbolic international news coverage of Japan’s plight. Frankly, when I watch CNN I feel like I should buy guns, flee to a cabin in the wilderness and find God.

Then I step outside my place in Tokyo and see that school kids are still off to class, my local coffee shop is open, the neighborhood ramen shops are abuzz with noodle-slurping patrons and taxis are picking up fares. Joggers and cyclists still zoom by, the hair salon on the corner is doing brisk business and the trains are running on time.

The newspaper still comes. The mail, too. The sweet-potato guy still drives by every hour. Touts still pass out fliers for this eatery or that pachinko parlor. The young Chinese massage ladies still try to coax me into some dodgy spa. Nigerian men still angle to drag me into girlie bars.

“Beautiful honeys! Special earthquake price!” they proclaim.

Young hipsters in Shibuya are as jaunty as ever, no doubt mulling an earthquake-chic look. Police in low-crime Japan look as bored as ever.

Aware of Dangers

Look, we’re dealing here. We are worried, of course, and taking precautions. Flashlights, candles, bottled water, canned food, blankets, radios, change for pay telephones, you name it. Not everyone is scurrying to the airport or jostling for a bullet-train to safety. We aren’t being complacent; we know full well that dangerous radiation leaks threaten us. Really, we do. We choose to stay and do our best.

So please, no more alarmist e-mails suggesting we are going to die -- that Chernobyl 2.0 is afoot. It’s amazing to me how everyone is suddenly a nuclear expert. Do this, eat that, rub this on your skin, read this report, run for the hills, are you bonkers? We appreciate the concern. We genuinely do. But when I turn on international TV channels and scan my e-mails, I suddenly feel like I need a drink or a hug or something.

Movie Action

Japan’s 126 million residents could be excused for wondering if we’ve been cast in some bad end-of-the world action flick. Yes, there was an almost biblical quality to the way the nation shook on March 11 and the waters did rise with supernatural speed to swallow entire towns. Trains were thrown into the air like something out of a Godzilla film, roads turned to jelly and nuclear power plants coughed out radiation.

At times, it feels like producer Jerry Bruckheimer might suddenly yell “cut!” as he finished up his latest apocalyptic box-office smash starring Nicolas Cage or Bruce Willis. Maybe John Cusack is in town filming “2012, the Sequel.”

In the past week I’ve heard many comments and seen many sights one would never expect in wealthy, cosmopolitan Tokyo -- like long food lines.

“I’ve lived in this city all my life and I never thought I would be fighting for milk, bread and beer,” said Toru Kobori, a 51-year-old accountant. “It’s like some action movie -- where the world ends.”

Absurd Yen

Then there’s the surreal financial news. Take the yen’s surge. Normally, I would revel in its gains to merrily plan an overseas holiday. The yen hitting a postwar high amid this level of uncertainty -- radiation, aftershocks, a coming recession -- is beyond absurd. It’s another challenge for Japan’s economy, not to mention the global one.

You know the interest-rate increase for which some Federal Reserve officials are itching? Well, you can forget that for a while. The same goes for the European Central Bank. You know that Apple Inc. iPad 2 you had your eye on, the one that’s already sold out? Good luck getting it now that Japan, where factories produce about one-fifth of semiconductors and 40 percent of electronic components, is offline for a while.

The losses will grow with each rolling power outage, each businessperson leaving and each over-the-top Japan-is-doomed TV report.

True, things are far from normal. Prosperous Japan isn’t accustomed to humanitarian crises. It’s a shock to see shantytowns popping up in the northeast -- hundreds of thousands huddled into overcrowded shelters without enough water, food, blankets, medical supplies and other essentials.

Yet the stoicism one sees in Tokyo, even as prospects for safety dwindle, is truly remarkable. It’s not that we in Japan don’t get what’s afoot. We’re just doing our best during turbulent times that we hope will soon end.

Amid such uncertainty, one thing is clear: Rumors of Tokyo’s death are wildly premature.

Libya Declares Immediate Ceasefire

Libya Declares Immediate Ceasefire After UN No-Fly Resolution


Libya Declares Cease-Fire After UN No-Fly Resolution

Libyans celebrate in Benghazi. Photographer: Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images

March 18 (Bloomberg) -- Libya said it is ceasing all military action and will start talks with rebels, reacting the day after a United Nations vote cleared the way for strikes against leader Muammar Qaddafi’s regime. Bloomberg's Lara Setrakian reports. (Source: Bloomberg)

March 18 (Bloomberg) -- Muammar Qaddafi’s troops outside the rebel base of Benghazi may face air strikes from the U.S., France and other allies after the United Nations Security Council authorized the use of force against the Arab regime. The council’s resolution, approved yesterday 10-0 with five abstentions, allows “all necessary measures” to protect civilians. Bloomberg's Hans Nichols reports. (Source: Bloomberg)

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe raises his hand as the United Nations Security Council voted on a Libya resolution calling for a no-fly zone and "all necessary measures" against forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi at U.N. headquarters in New York. Photographer: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Libya said it is ceasing all military action and will start talks with rebels, reacting the day after a United Nations vote allowed strikes against leader Muammar Qaddafi’s regime.

Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa made the announcement in a televised news conference carried by Al Arabiya TV today, adding that the UN resolution authorizing a no-fly zone violates the UN’s charter.

British and French leaders began preparing for possible air strikes against Libya after a UN Security Council vote cleared the way for the first Western military action against an Arab country since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

“Let’s remain very careful on these kinds of announcements,” French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said in response to the cease-fire statement.

Crude oil retreated after the Libyan response to the UN vote, dropping more than $2 a barrel from the day’s highs. Crude oil for April delivery slipped 55 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $100.87 a barrel at 9:47 a.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Prime Minister David Cameron earlier said the U.K. would “in the coming hours” deploy Tornado and Typhoon warplanes, air-to-air refueling craft and surveillance aircraft to enforce the UN’s no-fly zone aimed at Qaddafi.

Leaders across the Middle East are struggling to suppress a renewed surge in unrest, as Arab nations backed the no-fly zone and countries including Qatar indicated they’d participate in the enforcement of the UN resolution.

Saudi Measures

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah ordered sweeping increases in government spending, including $67 billion on housing, to prevent protests in his kingdom from gathering pace. The move came three days after Saudi forces entered Bahrain to stifle demonstrations in the mostly Shiite country. In Yemen, security forces fired on protesters in Sana’a in the most violent crackdown yet during two months of political unrest.

Qaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, signaled after the UN resolution that government troops won’t try to enter the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, though they will encircle it, backing away from earlier threats, Agence France-Presse reported. Qaddafi had said he’d “destroy” the opposition movement, recapture Benghazi, a city of 1 million people, and show “no mercy” to “traitors” who don’t surrender.

Forces loyal to Qaddafi shelled the city of Misrata even after the cease-fire announcement, Al Jazeera television reported, citing witnesses. Twenty five people have been killed there today, the Qatar-based channel said, citing medical staff.

‘Smart’ Tactics

The cease-fire announcement “is a smart tactical move to change the question from helping the rebels to that of regime change,” said Jan Techau, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Brussels and a former analyst at the NATO Defense College in Rome and the German Defense Ministry.

“Qaddafi’s testing the determination of the West to see if Obama, Sarkozy and Cameron really mean what they say when they demand his removal,” Techau said in a telephone interview.

Cameron told Parliament in London that the UN resolution falls short of giving the authority for regime change in Libya, saying “we have to restrict ourselves” even though “almost every leader has actually said the Qaddafi regime has to go.”

Libya’s announcement is “a big if,” European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.

‘Regime Should End’

“Everybody will be examining that very carefully,” Ashton told reporters in Brussels. “The universal view is that Qaddafi should go, the regime should end.”

Cameron said there will be a statement later today “setting out what we now expect from Colonel Qaddafi.” He said he’ll attend a meeting in Paris tomorrow hosted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy with the Arab League.

The UN’s principal policy-making panel voted 10 to 0, with five abstentions, to adopt a resolution that establishes a no- fly zone over Libya, demands a cease-fire and allows “all necessary measures” to protect civilians “excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.”

President Barack Obama called Cameron and Sarkozy last night to discuss enacting the resolution, the White House said in a statement. The three agreed to work closely with Arab and other international partners on enforcing the terms of the resolution and called for an end to the violence against civilians in Libya, the White House said.

U.S. Ships

The U.S. ordered 400 Marines and two Navy vessels, including the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge, to the Mediterranean off the Libyan coast, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said March 1. At the time, he said the ships were sent to help with evacuations and for humanitarian relief.

Several destroyers and submarines in the Mediterranean are “available for tasking as required,” Admiral Gary Roughead, the Pentagon’s chief of naval operations, told a Senate subcommittee on March 16.

NATO agreed to speed up military planning to support a no- fly zone, enforce the UN-mandated arms embargo and provide humanitarian aid. It stopped short of acting on those preparations.

The trans-Atlantic alliance operates a fleet of AWACS surveillance planes that could help monitor the skies over Libya and has a naval taskforce in the Mediterranean Sea that could enforce a blockade of Libya’s ports.

Italian Bases

Italian newspapers, including Corriere della Sera, reported today that the government would make three bases available to support a no-fly zone -- Sigonella and Trapani Birgi in Sicily and Gioia del Colle near the southern city of Bari.

At Sigonella, one of the closest NATO bases to Libya, about 340 miles (547 kilometers) from Tripoli and 465 miles from Benghazi, the U.S. Navy has its own installation. It is the “primary logistical support element for the U.S. Sixth Fleet operations,” according to the website of the U.S. base.

Denmark has committed to sending six F-16 fighter planes to help back the no-fly zone, Copenhagen-based newswire Ritzau reported, citing Defense Minister Gitte Lillelund Bech. Canada will deploy six CF-18 fighter jets, Postmedia News reported, citing unnamed sources.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said he will seek Parliament’s approval to deploy air and naval forces to back the UN resolution on Libya, and will cede bases in Spain to back the operation. He spoke in Madrid today.

Qatar plans to take part in the mission to protect Libyan civilians under the UN resolution, the state-run Qatar News Agency reported today citing a government spokesman.

Turkey, a majority-Muslim member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, does not support military intervention in Libya “for the moment,” said Selcuk Unal, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry.

NATO member Germany said it wouldn’t join any intervention. “German soldiers won’t take part in a military mission in Libya,” Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said.

Libya declares-cease fire

Libya declares-cease fire after U.N. approves intervention

/ AP - In this video image taken from television Friday March 18, 2011 Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa, left, speaks to journalists in Tripoli, Libya. Libya is declaring a cease-fire and stopping military operations.

TRIPOLI, Libya — The Libyan government declared a cease-fire Friday in its battle against rebels seeking to oust longtime leader Moammar Gaddafi, saying it was acting to protect civilians in the wake of a U.N. Security Council resolution that opened the door to military action

The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution that would authorize "all necessary measures" to protect civilians from Moammar Qaddafi's forces as Qaddafi loyalists take control of all of western Libya and vows to re-take cities in the east. (March 17)

Video: The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution that would authorize "all necessary measures" to protect civilians from Moammar Qaddafi's forces as Qaddafi loyalists take control of all of western Libya and vows to re-take cities in the east. (March 17)

Graphic

Hear from correspondent Leila Fadel as she reports from the ground in Libya, and follow how events are unfolding.

Graphic: Hear from correspondent Leila Fadel as she reports from the ground in Libya, and follow how events are unfolding.

More on this Story

Libya “accepts that it is obliged to accept the U.N. resolution,” Kusa said in explaining the decision to declare a cease-fire.

He said the cease-fire “will take the country back to safety” and ensure the security of all Libyans. But he also criticized the U.N. Security Council’s authorization of military action, which he said violates Libya’s sovereignty.

The announcement came after the Security Council on Thursday evening authorized the use of “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Libya, paving the way for air and naval attacks against Gaddafi’s forces as he vowed to level Benghazi, the rebel’s main stronghold and Libya’s second-largest city.

Britain and France reacted cautiously Friday to the cease-fire declaration, which followed a British announcement that it was deploying warplanes to bases from which to start enforcing the U.N. resolution.

There was also conflicting information Friday on whether Gaddafi’s forces were respecting the cease-fire. In a phone call to CNN, a resident of the rebel-held city of Misurata said shelling by government forces was continuing there after the cease-fire announcement. However, news agencies quoted rebels as saying they repelled a government attack in the morning and that the shelling had stopped. As many as 25 people were killed in the attack involving tank and artillery fire, al-Arabiya television reported. The city, Libya’s third-largest, is 130 miles east of Tripoli and is the last rebel-held urban area in the western part of Libya.

Gaddafi “will tell the world he has declared a cease-fire, and underground he is going to kill as many as he can and gain territorial advantage to improve his bargaining position,” the unidentified Misurata resident told CNN. “He has to be brought to justice and bombed into submission.”

In London, British Prime Minister David Cameron said in reaction to the cease-fire declaration, “We will judge him [Gaddafi] by his actions, not his words.” The Security Council resolution made clear that “he must stop what he is doing, brutalizing his people,” he told the BBC. “If not, all necessary measures can follow to make him stop.”

Cameron earlier told Parliament that Britain was moving warplanes and aerial refueling and surveillance aircraft to bases from which “they can start to take the necessary action.”

A French Foreign Ministry spokesman said Paris also is being “very cautious” about the purported cease-fire. Gaddafi “ is now starting to be afraid, but on the ground the threat has not changed,” Bernard Valero told Reuters television.

In a 10 to 0 vote, with five abstentions, the Security Council called for an immediate cease-fire in Libya and approved the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libyan territory and the interdiction of ships carrying supplies to Gaddafi’s government. In broad language, the council approved the use of any means short of “foreign occupation” to end strikes against “civilian populated areas under threat of attack . . . including Benghazi.”

The vote marked a dramatic turn in the world’s response to the Libyan crisis after weeks of debate and reluctance by many to intervene, and it comes as rebel forces were said to be on the brink of defeat.

Celebrations erupted across Benghazi as word of the vote reached the rebels. Clerics chanted “God is great” over mosque loudspeakers, and the streets were filled with celebratory gunfire and people waving the pre-Gaddafi Libyan flag adopted by the rebels.

France said it was prepared to launch attacks within hours, and Britain also indicated that it was prepared to act quickly. Initial strikes are likely to target air defense systems and runways; it was unclear whether plans were also in motion to strike at tank columns and other government ground forces headed east.

U.S. officials said that it would probably take several days for a full operation to be undertaken and that President Obama had not yet approved the use of U.S. military assets. Obama has preferred to let other nations publicly lead the response to the Libyan crisis, and he did not appear on camera Thursday night to speak about the U.N. vote.

In a measured response to the vote that contrasted with threats earlier in the day by Gaddafi to “show no mercy” to the rebels, Libya’s deputy foreign minister, Khaled Kaim, told reporters in Tripoli that Libya welcomed clauses in the resolution calling for protection of civilians.

But he cautioned the international community against arming the opposition, saying it would be tantamount to “inviting Libyans to kill each other.” The intention of the Libyan armed forces, he said, was “to protect civilians and guarantee food and medical supplies.”

Adoption of the resolution was seen as the last major hurdle to implementing plans drawn up by NATO in recent weeks that include unspecified participation by U.S. warships stationed off the Libyan coast or U.S. aircraft.

Shortly after the vote, Obama called Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the White House said in a statement. The leaders “agreed that Libya must immediately comply with terms of the resolution” and said they would “coordinate closely on next steps,” including working with “Arab and other international partners” to ensure enforcement of the resolution.

“There is no justification for [Gaddafi’s] continued leadership now,” Ambassador Susan E. Rice said after casting the U.S. vote in favor of the resolution. Russia, China, Germany, Brazil and India — all of whom expressed reservations about the move — abstained.

Earlier Thursday, Gaddafi had warned Benghazi that “we are coming tonight and there will be no mercy.” In an audio address delivered on state television, he promised to hunt down opposition “traitors . . . in the alleyways, house to house, room to room. . . . The whole world will watch Benghazi and see what will happen in it.”

Libya’s Defense Ministry threatened swift retaliation against any outside attack. “Any foreign military act against Libya will expose all air and maritime traffic in the Mediterranean to danger, and civilian and military facilities will become targets,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement distributed by the state news agency.

Thursday’s vote came only after the Arab League agreed Saturday to support a no-fly zone over Libya. The resolution “requests” Arab League members to cooperate with other U.N. members in implementing its terms, and U.S. officials said they expected that several Arab governments would help fund the operation or contribute military assets.

Lebanon’s U.N. ambassador, Nawaf Salam, provided no details on what role Arab countries would play in the military operation, saying that participants would make their own announcements. But he insisted that “there would be no forces on the ground in any form or in any part of Libya.”

In addition to a specific “ban on all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya” and use of “all necessary measures” to protect civilians, the resolution authorizes interdiction and inspection “on the high seas” of all vessels and aircraft bound to or from Libya provided there are “reasonable grounds to believe that the cargo contains items” prohibited under a previously adopted arms embargo and other sanctions.

It also calls on all U.N. members to stop the flow of “armed mercenary personnel” to Libya.

Among the five governments that abstained in the vote, Brazil’s U.N. ambassador, Maria Luiza Riberio Viotti, voiced concern that military action in Libya would “exacerbate tensions on the ground and cause more harm than good to the same civilians we are committed to protect.”

She also warned that military action would undermine the “spontaneous homegrown nature’’ of popular uprisings spreading through the Arab world and threatened to “change that narrative in ways that would have serious repercussions” for Libya and the rest of the region.

Libya’s renegade U.N.-based diplomat, Ibrahim Dabbashi, praised the council’s action and urged outside powers to move “immediately” to halt Gaddafi’s military offensive. The vote, Dabbashi said, sent a clear message to the Libyan people that they “are not alone. We are glad that Benghazi will now be safe.’’

In a statement earlier Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that establishment of a no-fly zone would require “bombing targets like the Libyan defense systems.”

U.S. military officials said Libya has more than 30 surface-to-air missile installations, largely positioned along its Mediterranean coast, where most of the population resides. Its arsenal also includes an unknown number of long-range missiles that can reach as far as 180 miles off the coast. Libya also operates more than 15 early-warning radar sites along the coast, a Defense Department spokesman said.

At a Senate hearing Thursday, Undersecretary of State William J. Burns confronted sharply differing views about the Libyan crisis that crossed party lines. Some, led by Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), said the administration has been too cautious in its response. “Time is running out for the Libyan people,” Kerry said.

But Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), along with several Democrats, warned of the “risk that our involvement would escalate” and said the administration should “seek congressional debate on a declaration of war” against Libya before U.S. forces participate in any action.

U.N. Clears Way for Attack on Libya

U.N. Clears Way for Attack on Libya

U.S., Europe Ready to Launch Air Strikes Against Gadhafi Forces; Rebels' Worsening Plight Jolts White House to Act

The United Nations Security Council authorized military force Thursday against Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi's security forces, opening the way for European and U.S. airstrikes within days.

The United Nations Security Council authorized military strikes on Libya Thursday evening, and U.S. and European officials said air attacks against Col. Moammar Gadhafi's forces were possible "within hours." WSJ's John Bussey and Kelsey Hubbard discuss.

The U.N. action, pushed aggressively by France and the U.K., came as Col. Gadhafi's security forces continued their assault toward Benghazi, the de-facto capital of rebels trying to end his 42-year rule.

European and American officials argued on the Security Council floor that an international campaign to stop Col. Gadhafi's forces was required immediately to stave off a potential massacre of opposition forces and civilians.

Reuters

Col. Gadhafi's forces celebrate at the gates of Ajdabiya, as government jets hit the city Wednesday.

Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Libyan men look at a reconnaissance plane circling above the eastern town of Ajdabiya on March 15.

Regional Upheaval

Track events day by day.

French officials have indicated that military strikes could take place within hours of the resolution's passage. Others were more cautious about how quickly any attacks would begin.

In Benghazi, the rebel administration unleashed fireworks over the harbor seconds after the U.N. vote, and in the eastern port city of Tobruq, tracer bullet volleys lit up the sky as boats in the harbor blew their horns.

Col. Gadhafi, shortly before the vote, said his troops would launch an all-out assault in the coming hours against rebels and members of the opposition in Benghazi even if the whole world opposed him.

Ten members of the Security Council voted for the imposition of a no-fly zone in Libya and other security measures, with no members opposing the resolution. Russia, China, Germany, India and Brazil abstained.

The resolution authorized other nations to board ships and planes to enforce an existing arms embargo on Libya, and approved "all necessary measures" to protect Libyan civilians from Col. Gadhafi's security forces.

U.N. members, aware of the sensitivity such a military campaign could have in a Muslim country, stressed that there would be no foreign military occupation of Libya—an outcome that is barred by the resolution.

"Our resolution is aimed to protect Libyan civilians," said Lebanon's ambassador to the U.N., Nawaf Salam, a central player in the drafting of the resolution. "It will not result in the occupation of even an inch of Libyan territory."

The assertive U.S. posture marked a turnaround from the early days of the month-old Libyan crisis, when President Barack Obama's administration, and particularly his defense advisers, seemed reluctant to embrace military action.

Read the Security Council Resolution

The president appeared to be facing two unpleasant possibilities: adding a third military commitment to the wars already under way in Afghanistan and Iraq, or watching Col. Gadhafi defeat—perhaps brutally—a rebellion sparked by regional pro-democracy uprisings.

U.S. officials said military action was preferable out of fear that, should Col. Gadhafi remain in power, he would slaughter those who had turned against him and perhaps return to supporting international terrorism.

"If Gadhafi stays, he will do terrible things to Libya and her neighbors," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during a visit Thursday to Tunisia, Libya's neighbor to the west. "It's in his nature—there are some creatures who are like that."

European and U.S. officials said military operations could begin quickly, as fear increased that Col. Gadhafi could move aggressively to retake Benghazi.

After the U.N. vote, President Obama spoke by telephone to British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The White House said the leaders agreed to coordinate closely on next steps.

France has been the most aggressive in seeking to contest Col. Gadhafi and Paris's military forces are expected to play a central, and early role in enforcing the no-fly zone and taking other actions, European and American officials said.

U.S. forces are also expected to take an important part in the operation, but the White House is wary of being seen as the driving force behind any military actions.

U.S. officials said they believed Col. Ghadafi's air defenses and ground forces would be easy targets for air strikes, creating a buffer zone to protect Benghazi.

Getty Images

A family fleeing fighting near Benghazi waits at the Libyan border Thursday after clearing customs to enter Egypt.

"They're no match," one U.S. official said of the Libyan army.

The Pentagon, ahead of the U.N. vote, was already fine-tuning military options for "serious" strikes against ground and air targets should the White House order them, said U.S. defense officials.

The U.S. has enough planes and other military assets in place to begin strikes almost immediately, a defense official said.

Options included using cruise missiles to take out fixed Libyan military sites and air-defense systems, according to these officials. Manned and unmanned aircraft could also be used against Col. Gadhafi's tanks, personnel carriers and infantry positions, with sorties being flown out of U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization bases in the southern Mediterranean.

"There is significant, serious planning going on right now," a U.S. official said. The options would be "more aggressive than a show of force."

U.S. officials have said there are no plans to insert U.S. ground forces into Libya. U.S. military officials say it would be counterproductive to send Western ground forces, even in small numbers, into Benghazi because it would fuel perceptions that the U.S. and its allies were invading an Arab state.

Official reaction in Libya to the U.N. resolution was confused—showing possible rifts within the regime. State media broadcast an announcement attributed to a Libyan military official saying any airstrikes against the country's forces would be met with attacks against maritime and air traffic in the Mediterranean. In a media briefing later, Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Kaim dismissed the threat, and downplayed threats by Col. Gadhafi to attack Benghazi.

Mr. Kaim said Libya had informed the U.N. special envoy to Tripoli Abdel-Ilah Khatib on Wednesday that it was ready to implement a ceasefire "immediately" but needed "to talk to someone to agree on the technicalities of this decision."

Celebratory gunfire erupted in eastern Libya after satellite TV channels reported the approval of the Security Council resolution, with rebel supporting chanting "God is Great" and the Arab revolutions' slogan, "The People Want the Downfall of the Regime."

In Tobruq, hopes were high for a quick turnaround of the war, in which rebel forces sustained a series of painful setbacks in recent days. "This was an excellent decision—it marks the end for Gadhafi," said Ahmad Muftah Mohammad, a 25-year-old revolutionary volunteer in Tobruq.

"I give Gadhafi a maximum of two days," said a fellow rebel, 17-year-old Ashraf Farhat Jawad.

The U.N. vote passed narrowly, as nine votes are required with no vetoes by any of the permanent members of the Security Council.

NATO ambassadors were set to meet Friday morning to decide on involvement in the operation, diplomats said. NATO involvement in military action is possible, a European diplomat said, but since NATO is a consensus organization, the abstention by Germany at the U.N. and possible objection from Turkey could be obstacles.

German Ambassador Peter Witting told the council that Germany wouldn't contribute to the mission with its own forces.

Russia, a vocal critic of the Libya action, abstained, and said it worried about a widening war.

"The passions of some Security Council members for military force prevailed," said Moscow's ambassador to the U.N., Vitaly Churkin. "The use of force will fall on the shoulders of those who take action."

Saif al-Islam Gadhafi tells reporters the uprising against his father will be over in two days. Video courtesy of Reuters.

Bahrain police clear Shi'ite protest camp in Manama, using teargas; fleeing protesters throw petrol bombs. Video courtesy of Reuters.

Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

A Libyan woman wears a dress made of the Kindgom of Libya flag used by the revolution during a rally in Benghazi on Saturday calling for the implementation of the No Fly Zone.

Some Russians accused the U.S. of a double-standard, pressing for Col. Gadhafi's removal while supporting Bahrain's royal family, despite its crackdown on protesters. "Why can the King of Bahrain spill the blood of his subjects and the leader of Libya can't?" said Yevgeny Satanovsky, director of the independent Institute for Middle East Studies in Moscow.

The status of Arab participation in any military action in Libya was also unclear, though momentum for the resolution was spurred by an Arab League plea on Saturday.

U.S. and European officials stressed the importance of having Arab states take part in any coalition, logistically and financially, after the Arab League backed the imposition of a no-fly zone. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were among countries that discussed the possibility of assisting the U.S. and French governments in Libya, according to Arab and European diplomats.

A number or Arab governments were still voicing reluctance to back a U.N.-mandated operation in Libya, given frustration over the White House's handling of the recent democracy surge in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., in particular, felt the U.S. abandoned its long-time ally Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and hadn't shown enough support for the Bahraini royal family.

"There is a serious trust deficit right now," said a senior Arab diplomat. "I don't see any of the Gulf countries participating in a no-fly zone."

In recent days, Egypt's military began shipping arms over the border to Libyan rebels with knowledge from Washington, according to a senior U.S. official and Libyan rebel officials. The shipments of mostly small arms, such as assault rifles and ammunition, are the first confirmed case of an outside government arming the rebels fighters.

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