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April 29, 2012 at 10:23 PM   |   0 comments

U.N. head begins Myanmar visit

NAYPYITAW, Myanmar, April 29 (UPI) -- U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon arrived in Myanmar Sunday to discuss furthering political reforms in the Asian nation, the United Nations said.

The three-day visit is Ban's third official trip to Myanmar and was made at the invitation of President U Thein Sein.

Myanmar this month held its first by-election since the transition to a civilian government last year. The United Nations and other international organizations sent observers to monitor the voting, China's Xinhua news agency said.

"Myanmar is only at the beginning of its transition and many challenges lie ahead," Ban said prior to his departure. "Many concerns have yet to be addressed yet I am convinced that we have an unprecedented opportunity to help the country advance towards a better future."

The United Nations said Ban's agenda included meetings with the president and parliamentary leaders as well as high-profile political dissident Aung San Suu Kyi, who was herself elected to Parliament in this month's vote.


Israeli court delays West Bank demolition

JERUSALEM, April 29 (UPI) -- Israel's high court Sunday granted the government a postponement of the demolition of two buildings in the settlement of Beit El.

The request did not mean there were any changes being made to the government's policy of tearing down illegally built dwellings in the West Bank, the State Prosecutor's office told the court.

Ynetnews.com said prosecutors wanted a three-month extension to examine the Beit El case further, but the court gave them only two months.

A Palestinian landowner on the West Bank claimed in 2008 the homes had been illegally built on his property. Attorneys representing the plaintiff said if the government was sticking to its policy of razing illegal dwellings, then there was no legitimate reason for the additional delay, Haaretz said.


Whites picket Miss Black France pageant

PARIS, April 29 (UPI) -- Right-wing protesters said they picketed the Miss Black France pageant because they oppose special treatment for minority groups.

Riot police kept an eye on the weekend rally in Paris by about 30 members of the New France movement, who said the nation should not be divided along ethnic lines.

"Why should Asians and Africans come here and have more rights than us?" one demonstrator who declined to be identified told Radio France Internationale. "This is why we are demanding a Miss White France."

New France maintains the Miss Black France pageant flies in the face of equality, a founding premise of modern France.

At the same time, pageant organizers said there is a significant element of inequality in the nation's famed fashion industry that has left models of color out in the cold.

"All the black models tell me they can't find work in France, so they are going to London and New York," said Frederic Royer. "French magazines also never feature black women on their covers."

RFI said Saturday's first annual Miss Black France pageant featured 22 finalists culled from about 1,000 entrants. The winner was Mbathio Beye, a 21-year-old student who was born in Senegal.


U.S. wary of al-Qaida attack on aviation

WASHINGTON, April 29 (UPI) -- A top U.S. counter-terrorism official said Sunday al-Qaida apparently still is open to a plot to attack commercial aviation as it did on Sept. 11, 2001.

John Brennan, chief counter-terrorism adviser to President Obama, said Sunday while al-Qaida has been significantly weakened, a high state of vigilance is still needed in the air-travel industry.

"Aviation has been a traditional target of al-Qaida and they continue to do that," Brennan said on ABC's "This Week."

Brennan agreed the slaying of Osama bin Laden a year ago was a major development in what he said was the overall degradation of al-Qaida capabilities.

Brennan said the reputed new leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, does not have the same charisma and "institutional support" within al-Qaida that Bin Laden enjoyed. But at the same time, al-Qaida's operations in Yemen remain a particular concern.

"They have demonstrated both the intent, as well as the capability to try to carry out an attack," he said.

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