United Nations Declaration (Articles 1 - 30):

Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2: Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Incoming UN chief names three women to top posts

Incoming UN chief names three women to top posts
Nigerian Minister of the Environment Amina Mohammed, seen in 2015, will be the UN's number two official (AFP Photo/Mireya ACIERTO)

Sustainable Development
"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) -
"The Timing of the Great Shift" – Mar 21, 2009 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Text version)

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013. They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."
"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)
(Subjects: Who/What is Kryon ?, Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" Managed Business, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)

The Declaration of Human Freedom

Archangel Michael (Via Steve Beckow), Feb. 19, 2011

Every being is a divine and eternal soul living in a temporal body. Every being was alive before birth and will live after death.

Every soul enters into physical life for the purpose of experience and education, that it may, in the course of many lifetimes, learn its true identity as a fragment of the Divine.

Life itself is a constant process of spiritual evolution and unfoldment, based on free choice, that continues until such time as we realize our true nature and return to the Divine from which we came.

No soul enters life to serve another, except by choice, but to serve its own purpose and that of the Divine from which it came.

All life is governed by natural and universal laws which precede and outweigh the laws of humanity. These laws, such as the law of karma, the law of attraction, and the law of free will, are decreed by God to order existence and assist each person to achieve life’s purpose.

No government can or should survive that derives its existence from the enforced submission of its people or that denies its people their basic rights and freedoms.

Life is a movement from one existence to another, in varied venues throughout the universe and in other universes and dimensions of existence. We are not alone in the universe but share it with other civilizations, most of them peace-loving, many of whom are more advanced than we are, some of whom can be seen with our eyes and some of whom cannot.

The evidence of our five senses is not the final arbiter of existence. Humans are spiritual as well as physical entities and the spiritual side of life transcends the physical. God is a Spirit and the final touchstone of God’s Truth is not physical but spiritual. The Truth is to be found within.

God is one and, because of this, souls are one. They form a unity. They are meant to live in peace and harmony together in a “common unity” or community. The use of force to settle affairs runs contrary to natural law. Every person should have the right to conduct his or her own affairs without force, as long as his or her choices do not harm another.

No person shall be forced into marriage against his or her will. No woman shall be forced to bear or not bear children, against her will. No person shall be forced to hold or not hold views or worship in a manner contrary to his or her choice. Nothing vital to existence shall be withheld from another if it is within the community’s power to give.

Every person shall retain the ability to think, speak, and act as they choose, as long as they not harm another. Every person has the right to choose, study and practice the education and career of their choice without interference, provided they not harm another.

No one has the right to kill another. No one has the right to steal from another. No one has the right to force himself or herself upon another in any way.

Any government that harms its citizens, deprives them of their property or rights without their consent, or makes offensive war upon its neighbors, no matter how it misrepresents the situation, has lost its legitimacy. No government may govern without the consent of its people. All governments are tasked with seeing to the wellbeing of their citizens. Any government which forces its citizens to see to its own wellbeing without attending to theirs has lost its legitimacy.

Men and women are meant to live fulfilling lives, free of want, wherever they wish and under the conditions they desire, providing their choices do not harm another and are humanly attainable.

Children are meant to live lives under the beneficent protection of all, free of exploitation, with unhindered access to the necessities of life, education, and health care.

All forms of exploitation, oppression, and persecution run counter to universal and natural law. All disagreements are meant to be resolved amicably.

Any human law that runs counter to natural and universal law is invalid and should not survive. The enactment or enforcement of human law that runs counter to natural and universal law brings consequences that cannot be escaped, in this life or another. While one may escape temporal justice, one does not escape divine justice.

All outcomes are to the greater glory of God and to God do we look for the fulfillment of our needs and for love, peace, and wisdom. So let it be. Aum/Amen.

Pope Francis arrives for historic first US visit

Pope Francis arrives for historic first US visit
Pope Francis laughs alongside US President Barack Obama upon arrival at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, on September 22, 2015, on the start of a 3-day trip to Washington (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

Today's doodle in the U.S. celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech on its 50th anniversary (28 Aug 2013)

'Love is love': Obama lauds gay marriage activists in hailing 'a victory for America'

'Love is love': Obama lauds gay marriage activists in hailing 'a victory for America'
The White House released this image, of the building colored like the rainbow flag, on Facebook following the supreme court’s ruling. Photograph: Facebook

Same-sex marriage around the world

"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

Merkel says Turkey media crackdown 'highly alarming'

Merkel says Turkey media crackdown 'highly alarming'
Reporters Without Borders labels Erdogan as 'enemy of press freedom'

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Monks return to streets of Burma

BBC News

More than 100 monks have marched in central Burma, the first time they have returned to the streets since last month's bloody crackdown on protests.

The monks chanted and prayed as they marched through Pakokku, the site of an incident last month that triggered pro-democracy protests nationwide.

The government said 10 people died during the crackdown, but diplomats believe the toll was much higher.

Thousands more - many of them monks - were thought to have been detained.

Separately, the Human Rights Watch organisation has accused the Burmese army of forcibly recruiting children to cover gaps left by a lack of adult recruits.

Envoy's return

Pakokku is a centre of Buddhist learning about 630km (390 miles) north-west of Rangoon.

Reports that soldiers had beaten up monks there on 6 September gave momentum to protests that had begun on 19 August to demonstrate against fuel price rises.

Protest on 26 September in Rangoon

Witnesses at Tuesday's march said the monks did not make any overt political statements but that the rally was clearly in defiance of the junta.

In the wake of the crackdown on protesters last month, public gatherings of monks in Burma have been banned and many monasteries remain deserted.

According to the BBC's Asia correspondent Andrew Harding, there is no way of telling whether this new demonstration is the start of another wave of protests.

One monk who was on the march told the Democratic Voice of Burma, a Norway-based radio station run by dissident journalists: "We are continuing our protest from last month as we have not yet achieved any of the demands we asked for.

"Our demands are for lower commodity prices, national reconciliation and immediate release of [pro-democracy leader] Aung San Suu Kyi and all the political prisoners."

Aung Nyo Min, the Thai-based director of the Human Rights Education Institute of Burma, said of the rally: "This is very significant... we are very encouraged to see the monks are taking up action and taking up peaceful demonstrations in Burma."

'Systemic abuse'

There are hundreds of thousands of monks in Burma. They are highly revered and the clergy has historically been prominent in political protests.

The crackdown on protests sparked international action, with the US and EU imposing sanctions and embargoes.

United Nations envoy Ibrahim Gambari is expected to return to Burma this weekend for talks with the military government in the wake of the crackdown.

Army 'recruiting children'

A Western diplomat told Agence France-Presse news agency Mr Gambari would be in Burma from 3-8 November.

Mr Gambari last visited on 29 September, just three days after the bloody crackdown began, and met junta chief Gen Than Shwe and Aung San Suu Kyi.

He has been on a six-nation Asian tour to try to increase pressure on the generals.

British ambassador to Burma, Mark Canning, told the BBC he expected further unrest in the country.

"I do think this sort of economic and political frustration that is within the population will manifest itself again in the coming months."

Meanwhile, in a move that will add further pressure to the ruling junta, the campaign group Human Rights Watch has released a report saying children as young as 10 are beaten or threatened with arrest to make them enlist in the military.

The government insists it is opposed to the use of child soldiers, but Human Rights Watch says the abuses have been extensive and systemic.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Military earns praise for role in democracy

Desy Nurhayati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A U.S political analyst has lauded the Indonesian Military (TNI) for helping to improve the country's democracy by staying out of active politics for the past nine years.

Alfred C. Stepan, director of the Center for the Study of Democracy, Tolerance and Religion at Columbia University in New York, said Monday he was impressed by the TNI's commitment to remain out of political activities, and this commitment had contributed to the country's progress toward democracy.

"During nine years of this transition era, it is good that the TNI has never attempted to take back their power like they used to have during the New Order era. There were moments of temptation, but they never did that because they know it would be dangerous for them," Stepan said after speaking at a seminar on the role of the military in countries making the transition to democracy.

"In a democratic country, the people do not want any state institution to take over the entire state affairs.

"The fact that the military gave away their seats at the House (in 2004) and that they accepted the military's dual-function concept being erased and the police being separated from them (in January 2001) is impressive."

During the New Order regime, the then Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI) were provided 100 seats in the House.

Besides active involvement in politics, ABRI functioned to safeguard the nation and also undertook the task of "building the nation", a role that was open to interpretation.

Despite the progress, Stepan said more effort was needed by the TNI to help establish safety and security in the country, including reforming its relationship with the police.

He did not touch on the issue of the TNI's involvement in business.

To improve the professionalism of the military, the government has prohibited military personnel from involvement in business activities, as stipulated in the 2004 law on the TNI.

The law also says the military should give up its business interests and activities and turn over all assets to the government.

The TNI has said it will hand over its business units to the government, but wants the government to be responsible for fulfilling all the military's budgetary needs.

Military analyst Kusnanto Anggoro of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said he agreed the military should not be involved in business, because it could divert their focus from safeguarding the nation.

"In fact, TNI businesses only contribute 1 percent to their budgetary needs. It is therefore unreasonable if the TNI does not want the government to take over its businesses, as it may indicate illegal dealings behind their real businesses," Kusnanto said.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Moroccan globe-trotters heading for Indonesia

The Jakarta Post

JAKARTA (Antara): Two Moroccans - Abdelkrim Rachek and Youssef Abdennaim, are on a tour around the Muslim world on foot since February 2007 and will be completing their globe-trotter trip in Indonesia, a Moroccan Embassy press release said Monday.

According to the release, the Moroccan globe-totters would be heading for Indonesia from Malaysia on Oct. 31.

Their tour, as indicated by the title of their program, is to follow the steps of the famous Moroccan traveler Ibnu Batouta around the Arab and Islamic world on foot.

Under the slogan "Love, Peace, Religious Tolerance and Cultural Heritage Sharing," the two Moroccan globe-totters are touring Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, Kuwait, Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, India, China, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Peace journalism the way forward

Khairul Saleh, Palembang

PALEMBANG (The Jakarta Post), South Sumatra: Around 15 journalists in Palembang participated Thursday in a peace journalism course co-organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) and the Center for Journalism and Development Studies (LSPP).

"We want to provide participating journalists with some knowledge and know-how on peace journalism," Unesco's Arya Gunawan said.

"Hopefully, this course will enable them to comprehend the nature of conflict."

Similar courses have been held in Batam and organizers plan to hold the course in Jambi and Padang.

Course speaker Bambang Wisudo said the journalists should approach and view the conflict and the people involved with balance.

"Only then, the journalist will be able to report or to write about the conflict in a clear, calm, moderate, unbiased and comprehensive manner."

Wisudo is a long-time journalist who has covered various conflicts in Indonesia.

Natural decline 'hurting lives'

Continuing destruction of the natural world is affecting the health, wealth and well-being of people around the globe, according to a major UN report

BBC News

The Global Environment Outlook says most trends are going the wrong way.

It lists degradation of farmland, loss of forest cover, pollution, dwindling fresh water supplies and overfishing among society's environmental ills.

The UN Environment Programme (Unep) says there is a "remarkable lack of urgency" to reverse these trends.

"There continue to be persistent and intractable problems unresolved and unaddressed," said Unep's executive director Achim Steiner.

"Past issues remain and new ones are emerging, from the rapid rise of oxygen 'dead zones' in the oceans to the resurgence of new and old diseases linked in part with environmental degradation."

Unep concludes that the well-being of millions of people in the developing world is put at risk by failure to remedy problems which have been tackled in richer societies.

Final alarm

Publication of this Global Environment Outlook (Geo-4) marks 20 years since the World Commission on Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission), a seminal conference which put the idea of sustainable development at the heart of the UN.

Since that time, Geo-4 concludes, most environmental indicators have become more serious.

  • There is "visible and unequivocal" evidence of the impacts of climate change
  • Many farming systems have reached their limits of production
  • Warmer temperatures and ocean acidification threaten food supplies
  • 1.8 billion people face water shortages by 2025
  • Three-quarters of marine fisheries exploited to or beyond their limits
  • Exposure to pollutants causes 20% of disease in developing nations
  • Pollution being "exported" to developing world
  • About 60% of "ecosystem services" are degraded

Fish stocks are in a worse state, arable land (particularly in Africa) is becoming unusable, more people than ever before lack enough clean water, greenhouse gas concentrations have risen, and the loss of biodiversity is accelerating.

"This assault on the global environment risks undermining the many advances human society has made in recent decades," wrote UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon in a foreword.

"It is undercutting our fight against poverty. It could even come to jeopardise international peace and security."

Geo-4's 572 pages do contain some positive conclusions, including a slowing of the rate of Amazonian deforestation, cleaner air in western Europe, and the global treaty curbing destruction of the ozone layer.

But they are dwarfed by the overwhelming conclusions that overall, environmental indicators are pointing downwards, and governments are not committing enough will and resources to halt the slide.

"There have been enough wake-up calls since Brundtland," said Mr Steiner.

"I sincerely hope Geo-4 is the final one."


UN's Global Environment Outlook [21.9MB]

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi leaves home to meet with government official

The Jakarta Post

YANGON (AP): Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi - under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years - left her home Thursday afternoon to meet with a Myanmar government official, a diplomat said.

Three cars arrived at her home and drove her to a government guest house, where she was to hold talks with a newly appointed liaison minister, Aung Kyi. The information came from a diplomat who did not want to be identified for political reasons.

A retired general, Aung Kyi was appointed to the post on Oct. 8 to hold talks with Suu Kyi.

It is not clear if this is Suu Kyi's first meeting with Aung Kyi who on Wednesday was elevated to labor minister from deputy labor minister.

With Aung Kyi's appointment, the junta said it hoped to achieve "smooth relations" with Suu Kyi. Early this month the New Light of Myanmar newspaper, a mouthpiece of the junta, printed a brief official announcement on its front page saying that Kyi had been appointed "minister for relations" to coordinate contacts with Suu Kyi, the country's democracy icon.

The appointment was suggested by U.N. special envoy Ibrahim The appointment was suggested by U.N. special envoy Ibrahim Gambari during his visit to Myanmar earlier this month, the statement said. It added that the junta had accepted the idea "in respect of Gambari's recommendation and in view of smooth relations with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi."

His exact duties have not been detailed, but it appeared Aung Kyi would coordinate all of Suu Kyi's contacts with both the regime and the United Nations, which is seeking to end the political deadlock between democracy advocates and a military that has ruled since 1962.

Aung Kyi has a reputation among foreign diplomats, U.N. officials and aid groups as being relatively accessible and reasonable compared to top junta leaders, who are highly suspicious of outsiders. He has had the delicate task of dealing with the International Labor Organization, which accuses the junta of using forced labor.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Worldwide Suu Kyi rallies begin

BBC News

Activists are marking the 12th year of detention for Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in a series of protests taking place in 12 cities.

Some are expected to happen at Chinese embassies, as campaigners say Beijing holds the key to Ms Suu Kyi's release.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner has been held by Burma's military junta, mostly under house arrest, since 1995.

Australia is the latest country to impose sanctions on Burma's generals, amid global condemnation of their rule.

Australian officials said the financial sanctions would target 418 individuals, including top military figures and cabinet ministers.

Pressure has been growing on the junta since its bloody suppression of pro-democracy protests last month.

The generals have agreed to another visit from the UN's special envoy Ibrahim Gambari, who is currently in China lobbying for Beijing's backing for democratic reforms in Burma.

And they are also allowing the UN's human rights investigator, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, to visit the country for the first time in four years. He is due to speak in New York later.

Laureates' appeal

In the Thai capital, Bangkok, a small group of activists gathered outside the Chinese embassy dressed in chains and wearing masks of Ms Suu Kyi, chanting: "Free, free, Aung San Suu Kyi."


Open letter signed by Nobel peace laureates Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan Maguire

Rallies in London, Paris, Berlin, Dublin, Vienna, Sydney, Washington, Toronto, New York, Brasilia, Bangkok and Cape Town

Rallies are due to be held at midday, local time, in 11 other cities, including Brasilia, New York, and Cape Town.

Six female Nobel peace laureates have jointly appealed to the UN, urging it to help Ms Suu Kyi regain her freedom.

"The detention of Aung San Suu Kyi is the most visible manifestation of the regime's brutality but it is only the tip of the iceberg," they wrote in an open letter published in UK newspaper The Guardian.

Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won a convincing victory in a general election in 1990 but the junta refused to hand over power.

Close ally

The protests coincide with the anniversary of the UN charter, and campaigners say they will be stepping up the pressure for UN action.

They blame China for blocking a UN resolution against Burma's generals.

Mr Gambari, who is expected to return to Burma next month, is meeting senior Chinese officials this week.

But he will not see any of the country's top leaders, the BBC's Daniel Griffiths reports from Beijing.

Although China, one of Burma's closest allies, has expressed concern about the situation there, it has always stressed that it will not interfere in its neighbour's internal affairs.

It is a sign that Beijing is unwilling to push Burma too hard, our correspondent says.

Burmese officials say 10 people died during the crackdown on protests in September, but diplomats believe the true figures are much higher. Hundreds of people are thought to be in detention.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Iranian MPs add to nuclear splits

BBC News

More than 180 Iranian MPs have signed a letter praising former chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, who resigned from his post on Sunday.

A top foreign policy advisor to Iran's supreme leader also said Mr Larijani should not have been allowed to resign.

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Tehran says the resignation has revealed growing splits on how to proceed on the nuclear issue.

Western countries suspect Iran of trying to build nuclear weapons but Tehran says its programme is peaceful.

'Poor timing'

On Monday, 183 MPs signed a letter praising Mr Larijani's performance as a nuclear negotiator after he was replaced by deputy foreign minister Saeed Jalili, a close ally of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Profile: Ali Larijani

Mr Larijani had repeatedly offered his resignation and, on Sunday, Mr Ahmadinejad finally accepted it.

The letter came as former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati - now senior foreign policy advisor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - said the resignation had come at the wrong time.

"In the very important and sensitive situation where the nuclear issue is at the moment it would be better if this did not happen, or at least it was prevented," Mr Velayati said.

Although he was appointed by Mr Ahmadinejad, Mr Larijani reported directly to Ayatollah Khamenei, who usually has the final say on all state issues.

This is not an argument over whether Iran should have a nuclear programme, just how to get there, our correspondent says.

He says pragmatists believe in negotiating with the international community and talk of following the path of Japan, which has quietly gained a civilian nuclear programme that some observers believe could be quickly adapted to produce nuclear weapons.

By contrast, Mr Ahmadinajad seems almost to want a confrontation - it is not just that he wants the nuclear programme, he wants also to use it to challenge the West and by doing so to build up Iran's power, our correspondent adds.


Mr Jalili is due to meet EU envoy Javier Solana in Rome for the first time since taking over the position.

The EU hopes to determine whether Mr Jalili's appointment signals a strengthening of Iran's stance on its nuclear programme.

But Mr Larijani will accompany his successor to the Rome talks, as the representative of Ayatollah Khamenei.

The deputy speaker of Iran's parliament has said that Mr Larijani resigned because he could no longer work with Mr Ahmadinejad, confirming suspicions that they had fallen out on policy, and possibly personality as well.

Iran is developing the technology to enrich uranium on an industrial scale. The enriched uranium can be used as fuel in a nuclear power station.

Some Western countries, led by the US, fear Iran will further process the enriched uranium for use in nuclear weapons.

Palestine hails RI`s plan to host Asia-Africa confab

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Visiting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hailed on Monday Indonesia`s plan to host an Asia-Africa conference in the near future to support the Palestinian people`s struggle for an independent state.
"This is proof of the keen attention shown by Asian-African countries which will hold the conference in the near future at the initiative of Indonesia. This shows the keen attention and real support which is expected by our nation," he said in a joint press conference with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at his office here.
On the plan to hold an international meeting on Israeli-Palestinian peace in November, Abbas said the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia which make up the so-called Mideast Quartet working to end the Palestinian conflict, plus Arab countries, and three predominantly Muslim countries, namely Indonesia, Malaysia and Turkey were expected to attend it although no invitation had been extended to them.
"Therefore, we always establish communication and cooperation between the governments of Palestine and Indonesia. We have set up a joint team or committee between the two foreign ministers to take follow up actions and keep abreast of latest developments," he said.
In addition, he said his side was also holding intensive communication and dialogs with Israel to agree on documents acceptable to both sides and to the international community.
"The documents will later serve as a basis for holding conferences. Afterwards, there will be negotiations between Palestine and Israel. Hopefully, before 2008 there will be a real settlement as expected," he said.
On the occasion, President Yudhoyono hailed the plan to hold the international conference on increasing Palestinian capacity in reviving the stalled process of seeking a fair, permanent and comprehensive solution in pursuit of Palestinian independence.
"I also underscored the need to include in the agenda of the conference crucial issues in the interest of Palestine by involving countries which also have a interest in the settlement of the Palestinian issue, including Lebanon and Syria," he said.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said the Asia-Africa conference was likely to be held in January or February 2008.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Mozambique ex-leader wins prize

BBC News

Former Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano has won the first Mo Ibrahim prize rewarding a retired African head of state for excellence in leadership.

Mr Chissano, who is credited with bringing peace to Mozambique, had been seen as a frontrunner for the prize.

The prize, announced by former UN head Kofi Annan, is worth $5m (£2.5m) over 10 years, and then $200,000 a year.

Mobile phone millionaire Mo Ibrahim is funding the project in the hope it will help improve governments' performance.

The Sudanese businessman also hopes it will increase Africa's self-sufficiency and bring a day when the continent's people no longer need to live on aid.

"It is (for) his role in leading Mozambique from conflict to peace and democracy that Chissano has made his most outstanding contribution," Mr Annan said after announcing the winner.

"This remarkable reconciliation between opponents provides a shining example to the rest of the world and is testament to both his strength of character and his leadership," he said.

After winning independence from Portugal in 1975 Mozambique suffered a civil war that lasted until 1992.

Wider role

Mr Chissano was the country's president from 1986 to 2005. He also served as chairman of the African Union in 2003 and 2004, and has worked as a UN envoy.

Mr Annan praised Mr Chissano's role at home and more widely in Africa.

"His decision not to seek a third presidential term reinforced Mozambique's democratic maturity and demonstrated that institutions and the democratic process were more important than personalities," he said.

"He was a powerful voice for Africa on the international stage and played an important role in pushing debt relief up the agenda."

Mr Chissano is something as a rarity in Africa as a leader who has left office with his reputation intact, says BBC southern Africa correspondent Peter Biles.

The panel of judges also included the former Irish President, Mary Robinson, Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari and the head of the Organisation of African Unity, Salim Ahmed Sali.

They assessed the relative merits of 13 African former heads of state, all of whom left power in the past three years.

Among these at least six took power by staging coups.

Israeli Jews turn to Palestinians for kosher veg

Mon Oct 22, 2007 12:22am EDT

By Ari Rabinovitch

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A Jewish agricultural law that crops up every seven years is prompting Israel's most fervent Zionists to turn to Palestinian farmers for food.

According to biblical law, farmers must let the land of Israel "rest and lie fallow" every seventh year, which means no planting crops, no picking fruit and no working vineyards.

In past years, farmers have circumvented the law by symbolically "selling" their land to a non-Jew for the year.

This year, some Orthodox Jews want that loophole to be closed and are turning to Palestinian farmers for their kosher vegetables -- an ironic twist in a region gripped by conflict over land ownership.

Wearing traditional prayer shawls, a group of bearded Orthodox Jews strolled through Palestinian farmland in the occupied West Bank, choosing the shiniest, firmest tomatoes to take back to their communities.

They marked each box with a black "kosher" stamp in Hebrew.

"God wants to remind us and tells us 'look, I'm the owner of the land'," said Rabbi Shner Revach, chairman of the government- sponsored group that oversees implementation of biblical laws. "'Once in seven years, let mother nature rest, and trust me

Read whole article ....

Palestinian president confident solution to Middle East crisis will be found

The Jakarta Post

JAKARTA (AP): Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas expressed confidence Monday a solution would be found to the Middle East crisis before the end of 2008. He also stressed the importance of reconciliation with Hamas.

Abbas, who arrived in Indonesia on Sunday, is seeking support from Muslim allies in Asia ahead of a U.S.-hosted conference involving Israel and the Palestinians.

The gathering, to be held in November or December, will seek a joint declaration outlining a way for the two sides to return to the negotiating table after seven years of bloodshed and diplomatic paralysis.

Washington hopes it also will relaunch negotiations to create a Palestinian state.

"Before the end of 2008, we will have found the real solution we have been hoping for," Abbas told reporters after discussing ways to achieve a peaceful, lasting resolution to the Middle East crisis with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

He also said Hamas, which he expelled from the Palestinian government after Islamic militants violently seized control of the Gaza Strip in June, "is a part of the Palestinian people and cannot be separated. Nobody denies that."

"However, they have carried out a coup d'etat against the legitimate government that could divide our unity and dissolve the efforts of peace," Abbas said, acknowledging, however, that "we cannot move unless we work together" with Hamas.

The first stop in Abbas' Asian tour was Malaysia, and he is scheduled to travel next to Brunei. Indonesia, which does not recognize Israel, is a secular nation with 235 million people, nearly 95 percent of whom are Muslims.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Myanmar's state media call for Suu Kyi to compromise in talks with junta

The Jakarta Post

YANGON (AP): Myanmar's ruling junta stepped up its efforts to hold talks with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, issuing an unusual plea in state media Saturday for her to compromise in a bid for national reconciliation.

The push for discussions follows U.S. President George W. Bush's announcement Friday that new sanctions would be imposed to punish the military-run government and its backers for a deadly crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.

Expanding on sanctions imposed last month, Bush ordered the Treasury Department to freeze the U.S. assets of additional members of Myanmar's ruling junta. He also acted to tighten controls on U.S. exports to the country. In addition, Bush urged the Chinese and Indian governments to do more to pressure the government of neighboring Myanmar, also known as Burma.

"The people of Burma are showing great courage in the face of immense repression," Bush said at the White House. "They are appealing for our help. We must not turn a deaf ear to their cries."

The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper did not mention of the sanctions in its Saturday edition. Instead, it focused on trying to persuade Suu Kyi to participate in talks with the government.

The government announced earlier this month that the junta's leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, was willing to meet with Suu Kyi - but only if she meets certain conditions, including renouncing support for foreign countries' economic sanctions targeting the junta.

It remains unknown if Suu Kyi would accept the offer, which also called on her to give up what the junta called her support for "confrontation" and "utter devastation" - an apparent reference to the recent public protests, the largest in tightly controlled Myanmar in nearly two decades.

The regime accuses Suu Kyi and her party of working with other nations to sabotage the junta's own plans for a phased return to democracy.

Than Shwe has only met with Suu Kyi once before, in 2002. The talks quickly broke down.

In a lengthy commentary, the newspaper said the time was right for Suu Kyi to respond positively to the offer of talks "with a view to serving the interest of all."

"We are tired of watching a stalemate for a long time considering that we should not go on like this forever," the commentary said. "There should be some forms of compromise. If one side makes a concession, the other side should do so. The situation will get worse if both sides are arrogantly intransigent refusing to budge from their stand."

The views in the commentary are believed to represent those of the junta.

Last month, tens of thousands of people turned out for rallies, which started as protests over sharp fuel increases and later snowballed into the largest show of anti-government dissent in decades. The junta claims that 10 people were killed when troops opened fire on demonstrators to disperse them, but diplomats and dissidents say the death toll is much higher.

The violent crackdown was roundly criticized by the international community including the U.N. Security Council which issued its first-ever statement on Myanmar, condemning the clampdown and calling for the release of all political prisoners.

U.N. Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari also met with the junta leader in Myanmar early this month in a bid to bring democracy to the country, as well as twice with Suu Kyi. But he has failed so far to bring about a dialogue between the two sides.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Myanmar junta forms committee to draft new constitution.

The Jakarta Post

YANGON (AP): Myanmar's ruling junta claimed to have taken another step in its "road map" to democracy that is supposed to lead to free elections with the creation of a committee to draft the country's long-delayed constitution.

The announcement late Thursday came amid a barrage of international pressure on the junta to halt a crackdown on government opponents and hold talks with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari suggested Thursday the country's military rulers be offered incentives to move toward democratic reforms. The envoy was on a six-nation tour of Asia aimed at getting Myanmar's neighbors to take an active role in resolving the crisis.

Myanmar's repressive regime has repeatedly rebuffed the world's calls for democratic reforms, saying it will follow its own so-called road map to democracy.

The road map is supposed to culminate in a general election at an unspecified future date. But so far only the first stage – drawing up guidelines for a new constitution - has been completed, and that took more than a decade. Critics say the plan has no clear timetable and is a ruse to allow the military to cling onto power.

State radio and television said Thursday that a 54-member Constitution Drafting Commission had been selected and would be chaired by Chief Justice Aung Toe, with Attorney General Aye Maung serving as vice chairman. Several other officials, retired doctors and professors were also named.

The announcement did not say when the committee would start drafting the constitution.

Last month the junta brutally stamped out pro-democracy demonstrations, detaining thousands of protesters and leaving 10 dead, by its own account. Critics of the regime say the true death toll may be closer to 200.

The government insists it will make democratic reforms only according to its own seven-step plan.

The road map's first stage - drawing up guidelines for the new constitution - began in 1993 and was completed only last month.

Thursday's announcement said the commission would implement the third stage of the process, implying that the group's formation was the vaguely defined second stage. The fourth stage is supposed to be submission of the draft constitution to a national referendum.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy Party won a 1990 general election, but the military refused to allow the party to take power.

The guidelines for a new constitution call for the military to maintain a prominent role in politics, and its provisions on eligibility would bar Suu Kyi from holding elected office.

Suu Kyi's party has charged that the junta was trying to draft a constitution unilaterally, and that it therefore "could not be expected to guarantee democracy, human rights and public well-being."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

UN envoy says incentives for Myanmar help break deadlock

The Jakarta Post

JAKARTA (AP): Incentives could be offered to Myanmar's military rulers in exchange for democratic reforms following a bloody crackdown that sparked international outrage, the U.N. envoy for the country said Thursday.

Ibrahim Gambari, who was visiting Indonesia on a six-nation tour to press Asia to help resolve the Myanmar crisis, also called on regional economic powerhouse China to "continue to do more to really move the authorities in Myanmar" along the path of change.

"We are going to continue to see China as an ally," he told reporters.

Gambari said one approach could be "a combination of strong encouragement of the authorities in Myanmar to do the right thing along with some incentives to say that ... the world is not there just to punish Myanmar."

He did not elaborate, but his remarks come as the EU and other countries are threatening to widen sanctions imposed on the country, suggesting a carrot-and-stick approach may be applied to the nation.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said this week that economic support could be given to Myanmar if it opens a dialogue with its opponents, including democracy leader laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Gambari met with junta leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe and Suu Kyi during a recent trip to Myanmar, but has so far failed to bring about a dialogue between the two sides. He is scheduled to revisit the country next month after first stopping in Japan, India andChina.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Japan adds to pressure on Burma

BBC News

Japan is halting $4.7m (£2.3m) in funding for a human resources centre in Burma, as economic pressure mounts on the military government there.

The move follows the death of a Japanese journalist during the Burmese military's bloody suppression of anti-government protests last month.

It reflected Japan's "strong concerns" over the situation, a minister said.

On Monday, the EU upped sanctions on Burma and the US urged "consequential" action against its leaders.

Japan is one of the leading donors of aid to Burma.

The funding, promised in 2005, was to have been used for a centre at Rangoon University, where courses in economics, management and Japanese would have been taught.

But the shooting of video journalist Kenji Nagai, 50, sparked outrage in Japan and has led to a tougher position.

''Japan has to show its stance and we can't effectively be supporting the military junta at this point in time,'' Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said.

Japan would increase efforts to persuade the Burmese government to move towards democracy, he said.

Read whole article ....

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day - Indonesian women to plant 10 million trees to help overcome climate change

Last week it was announced that seven woman organizations will plant an estimated 10 million trees throughout Indonesia starting on December 1, 2007, to help deal with climate change.

On this Blog Action Day for the environment I though it was appropriate to post this information again. For more information please follow the link:

U.N. envoy says Myanmar arrests must stop

Mon Oct 15, 2007 2:19am EDT

BANGKOK (Reuters) - U.N. special envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari called on the country's junta to release all political detainees and said continuing arrests after last month's pro-democracy protests were "extremely disturbing".

"These actions must stop at once," Gambari told reporters after a one-hour meeting with Thai Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram.

"The United Nations calls on the Myanmar government to release all political detainees, including those arrested during the demonstrations," the Nigerian diplomat said.

Gambari was in Bangkok at the start of an Asian tour to brief regional governments and hopes to wind up his trip with another visit to Myanmar before the end of the month.

China communists 'falling short'

Chinese President Hu Jintao has said in a keynote speech that the Communist Party he leads has fallen short of the people's expectations.

"We must guard against arrogance and rashness, preserve plain living and struggle hard"

By Michael Bristow, BBC News, Beijing

Speaking at the start of the party's 17th congress, he also lashed out at officials who were extravagant, wasteful and corrupt.

President Hu's criticism came as he assessed the party's recent performance in front of senior leaders.

The gathering is held every five years to decide policies for coming years.

Heads bowed

President Hu said: "While recognising our achievements, we must be well aware that they still fall short of the expectations of the people."

Some of the problems faced by ordinary people relate to employment, housing, social security and education, he said.

He was particularly critical of party leaders who used their position to provide for themselves, a theme President Hu has often spoken about.

"A small number of party cadres are not honest and upright," he told more than 2,200 delegates.

"[Their] extravagance, waste, corruption and other undesirable behaviour are still serious problems with them," he said.

The congress began when the country's top leaders filed out on to the podium in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, which was bedecked in red flags.

In an indication of how much sway former President Jiang Zemin still holds, he emerged immediately after President Hu and sat next to him on the podium.

A military band than played the national anthem before party leaders bowed their heads to remember the party's founding fathers.

To polite applause and with a hammer and sickle symbol behind him, President Hu then began his speech.

As well as criticising the party's performance over the previous few years, he also laid out its future plans.

One of the main goals is to build a "moderately prosperous society" by 2020.

Short on specifics

Later on Mr Hu defined that task as quadrupling the country's year 2000 per capita gross domestic product by 2020.

Mr Hu also had a warning for Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing considers part of China. The two sides split in 1949.

He said the forces of "Taiwan independence" were stepping up their efforts to separate the island from China.

"[We] will never allow anyone to separate Taiwan from the motherland in any name or by any means," he warned.

Mr Hu's speech was typical of those delivered by senior Chinese officials at these well-orchestrated gatherings.

It was laced with well-worn official phrases such as "socialism with Chinese characteristics".

It was long, but short on specifics.

Mr Hu, for example, promised to "expand socialist democracy", but did not explain exactly what that means.

On Sunday, Li Dongsheng, the spokesman for the 17th congress, said China would never adopted Western-style democracy.

But one thing appears clear. President Hu has cemented his position at the top of the party hierarchy.

His personal contribution to party theory - scientific development - was placed on a par with contributions from other top leaders.

In the speech it ranked alongside Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory and ex-President Jiang's Three Represents.

Little is known about Hu Jintao beyond the brief, official biography.

But in his closing remarks, he perhaps revealed something of the man he hopes the public see him as.

"We must guard against arrogance and rashness, preserve plain living and struggle hard," he said.


promoting 'social harmony'
'scientific development'
building a 'well-off society'
consolidation of President Hu's position

Related Articles:

FACTBOX-China's 17th Communist Party Congress

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Thailand in search for energy supply from neighbouring countries

Google/AFP, 4 hours ago

BATAM, Indonesia (AFP) — Southeast Asia's biggest offshore oil platform, weighing in at 16,800 tonnes, is near completion in Indonesia's island of Batam. Destined for the Arthit gas fields in the Gulf of Thailand, the half-billion-dollar behemoth is expected to soon take centre stage in Thailand's bid to escalate drilling and secure energy supplies.

Natural gas generates nearly all of the electricity in Thailand, which long ago shed its rural roots and is galloping towards greater urbanisation and a broader industrial base.

Demand for gas is expected to rise by an annual average of 8.4 percent through to 2015, and Thailand's top energy firm PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP), which will take control of the Batam rig, hopes to be operating the nation's largest gas production facility by February 2008.

Even with capacity of nearly 370 million cubic feet per day, the massive Arthit project will not be able to supply power-hungry Thailand which is already looking further afield to meet demand.

"The existing domestic supply of natural gas is likely to be wiped out in the next 18 years," said PTTEP spokesman Sidhichai Jayant.

"Consequently, we are in need of natural gas supplies from neighbouring countries such as Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam, which have larger reserves than us, to fulfill future consumption."

While domestic gas supplies currently account for about half of Thailand's consumption, PTTEP plans to invest some 70 billion baht (two billion dollars) in overseas energy projects over the next five years as it anticipates heavier reliance on foreign gas reserves.

"Energy supplies from abroad are critical for Thailand, especially for long-term reliability as local supplies of gas and oil are limited," said Chavalit Pichalai of the Energy Policy and Planning Office.

"Even though we are diversifying to coal-fired and nuclear power generation, natural gas will remain a key source of electricity. We need to diversify our overseas gas supplies for long-term stability," he said.

This could prove tricky in a region beset by territorial disputes and, in the case of Myanmar, Thailand's largest supplier, political instability.

Myanmar's bloody crackdown on anti-government protests has sparked international condemnation and could force Bangkok to re-assess its trade relationship with its neighbour, which accounts for more than 30 percent of Thailand's energy supplies.

Although PTTEP says exploration is continuing in Myanmar's lucrative M-9 gas field in the southwestern Gulf of Martaban, experts warn that Thailand's supply lines, and reputation, could suffer with continued unrest in military-ruled Myanmar.

"Any interruption of the gas supply from there will put Thailand in a difficult position," said Suthiphan Chirathivat, associate professor of economics at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.

"Thailand should prepare contingency plans for any emergency in Myanmar.

"Meanwhile, the Thai government has to be more cautious in continuing its economic partnership with Myanmar if we don't want to have conflict with Western countries," he added.

Thanatthep Chatarakarn, energy analyst with Bua Luang Securities, said Thailand should look to alternative gas suppliers such as Indonesia and the Middle East.

"If negotiations for Myanmar's M-9 are affected by ongoing unrest there, PTTEP will be hard-pressed to secure more gas from abroad, especially if the Thai economy grows more than is projected," he said.

Diversifying energy sources could be difficult as the region's other booming economies also try to meet their own needs.

Indonesia's government has already said it wants to focus on supplying its own domestic energy needs from 2010.

PTTEP's Sidhichai said a significant oil project is now online in Vietnam and is expected to provide 20,000 barrels per day from the second half of 2008.

Elsewhere PTTEP has partnered with Malaysia's Petronas Carigali in a natural gas project expected to start next year, while two onshore drilling ventures have begun in Indonesia.

Since discovering oil in 2005, Cambodia is also being eyed as a source.

Thailand has acquired exploration rights for two projects in oil fields that are partially shared with its eastern neighbour, which is believed to have hundreds of millions of barrels of oil in its vast undersea reserves and could begin production as early as 2010.

However, boundary disputes have delayed drilling in one field, although talks are reportedly underway to resolve the disagreement and free up access to millions more barrels.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Millions forced out by China dam

BBC News

At least four million people are to be moved from the area around China's Three Gorges Dam amid warnings of an "environmental catastrophe".

The announcement by state media follows reports that the dam could cause landslides, soil erosion and pollution.

Critics have long warned the dam, the world's largest hydro-electric project, could cause huge environmental damage.

Millions of people are now set to be relocated to the sprawling city of Chongqing at the reservoir's west end.

The vice-mayor of the city, Yu Yuanmu, was quoted as saying the relocations were necessary to "protect the ecology of the reservoir area", which "has a vulnerable environment".

Read whole story ....

Tibetans: Exiled For Life

By Suzan Okar, Countercurrents.com, 12 October, 2007

Combat Law

India shelters one of the largest refugee populations in the world. Tibetans are the largest refugee group in South Asia and majority of them live in India. They maintain a unique culture and are pursuing a peaceful struggle. Before drawing a conclusion about the treatment meted out to Tibetans in India one must first look at international norms for treatment of refugees.

The international norms of treatment of refugees are embodied in the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1951 and its 1967 Protocol. The latter removes temporal and geographical limitations. In these two documents, 34 rights and freedoms are granted to refugees. World's 137 countries have signed the convention and the subsequent protocol. Contracting parties can express their reservations to all the articles contained in the Convention and Protocol except Article 3 non-discrimination; Art 1- refugee definition; Art 4- freedom of religion; Art 16(1)- access to courts; and Art. 33 - the principle of non-refoulement (a pre-condition against rejection and deportation of any person trying to cross borders in case this could endanger life of the entrant). India has yet to sign the Convention and its Protocol, leaving Indian policy outside the jurisdiction of UN supervision.

In its 1998 Country Report on India, the US Committee for Refugees highlighted that only 18,500 refugees had received United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) protection out of 3,00,000. India, by not signing the 1951 Convention, in essence, has refused substantial international assistance from other UN member states. Even though India maintains that refugee convention places a large burden on the host state, the UNHCR would actually bear a substantial part of the burden by providing most important financial assistance to the refugees arriving in India. India's current policy regarding refugees within its borders is not to assist and the refugee situation is handled on ad-hoc basis.

Read whole story ....

Vatican welcomes Muslim peace initiative

Fri Oct 12, 2007 10:39am EDT

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The top Vatican official in charge of relations with Islam on Friday welcomed an unprecedented call from 138 Muslim scholars for peace and understanding between their religions.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran told Vatican Radio he found the letter, released on Thursday, "very interesting," in part because it was signed by both Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims and made numerous references to the Old and New Testaments.

The letter, addressed to Pope Benedict and other prominent Christian leaders, said finding common ground between the world's major faiths had to go beyond polite dialogue because "the very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake".

Tauran, a Frenchman who heads the Vatican's department for inter-religious dialogue, said he welcomed the fact that the letter was "not polemical" and called for a spiritual approach to inter-religious dialogue.

Such a joint letter was unprecedented in Islam, which has no central authority that speaks on behalf of all worshippers.

The list of signatories includes senior figures throughout the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe and North America. They represent Sunni, Shi'ite and Sufi schools of Islam.

Relations between Muslims and Christians have been strained as al Qaeda has struck around the world and as the United States and other Western countries intervened in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Pope Benedict sparked Muslim protests last year with a speech hinting Islam was violent and irrational. It prompted 38 Muslim scholars to write a letter challenging his view of Islam and accepting his call for serious Christian-Muslim dialogue.

Benedict repeatedly expressed regret for the reaction to the speech, but stopped short of a clear apology sought by Muslims.