UN Alliance of Civilizations to stage first forum in Madrid

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UN Alliance of Civilizations to stage first forum in Madrid

Postby denise on Mon Jan 14, 2008 2:02 pm

http://news.monstersandcritics.com/euro ... _in_Madrid

UN Alliance of Civilizations to stage first forum in Madrid

Madrid - Nearly 400 political leaders and other representatives from about 100 countries were expected Tuesday in the Spanish capital Madrid for the first annual forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations project, organizers said Monday.

The forum was to provide participants with a platform to develop initiatives and partnerships in an attempt to overcome the gap of cultural prejudice and misunderstandings, especially between the West and the Muslim world.

The forum was to be inaugurated by the Spanish and Turkish prime ministers, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who launched the alliance, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and former Portuguese president Jorge Sampaio, the UN high representative for the project.

The guest list included the presidents of Algeria, Slovenia and Finland, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, Arab League Secretary General Amr Musa, actor Antonio Banderas, author Paulo Coelho as well as other personalities representing religious communities, the business world, academia, arts and civil society.

The United States, which is not a member of the 'Group of Friends' network supporting the alliance, will send its ambassador, while Israel was not expected to participate officially.

Soon after Zapatero launched the idea of the alliance in 2004, it received the backing of Erdogan, and was adopted by the UN in 2005.

In 2006, a group of 20 notables ranging from former Iranian president Mohammed Khatami to South African archbishop Desmond Tutu presented an action plan, issuing recommendations for areas ranging from education and the media to the integration of immigrants and peace initiatives.

The idea is for every country to now make its plans, according to the Spanish government, which was to present its own four-year plan at the two-day forum.
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Postby farmer on Mon Jan 14, 2008 10:19 pm

in time with the opening of the Madrid AoC Forum we find this news:

"Taliban Attack on Luxury Kabul Hotel Shows Threat to Westerners

By Ed Johnson

Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) -- A suicide bomb attack on a luxury hotel in Kabul shows Taliban rebels are extending their reach in Afghanistan and pose an increased threat to Westerners trying to rebuild the country, terrorism analyst Rohan Gunaratna said.

As many as eight people were killed in yesterday's gunfire- and-bomb assault on the Serena Hotel, where Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere was hosting a meeting.

``There is an increased threat in Afghanistan not just against coalition military personnel but against Westerners in general,'' said Gunaratna, head of the Singapore-based International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research. ``It's a reflection that they're going to kill more civilians, representatives of NGOs and aid organizations.''

Suicide bombings in Afghanistan have risen sevenfold over the past two years and Taliban fighters are increasingly carrying out attacks in the capital. The assault on the five- star hotel that is popular with international visitors may signal a shift in tactics for the rebels, who have previously focused on military and Afghan government targets.

A Norwegian journalist accompanying the foreign minister and a U.S. citizen were among those killed. Stoere was uninjured, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

The assault is a ``serious crime against humanity,'' Ban told reporters in New York. Stoere was the target of the attack, he said, without elaborating.

Guns, Grenades

Four militants armed with guns and grenades carried out the assault, Associated Press cited Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid as saying. One fighter blew himself up and another was shot dead, he said.

The gunmen evaded armed guards at about 6 p.m. Kabul time and attacked the hotel's spa and gym, where international guests relax and work out, according to the report.

It was the deadliest attack on a hotel in Kabul since the Islamist movement was ousted by a U.S.-led coalition in 2001, AP said. In 2003, a rocket exploded near the Intercontinental Hotel, shattering windows and knocking diners from their chairs, though no injuries were reported, AP said.

The attack is a ``reflection of the increased capability of al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other groups located on the Afghan- Pakistan border to operate,'' Gunaratna said. ``There is very little to restrain such groups.''

Terrorist Havens

U.S. intelligence officials said in a report published in July that al-Qaeda has established a haven in Pakistan's tribal regions along the mountainous border where insurgents train, rearm and plan attacks in Afghanistan.

The sanctuaries are making it more difficult to contain the insurgency in southern and eastern provinces, said Andrew Tan, a security analyst at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

``It is not surprising the Taliban are able to expand their operations further north to the capital,'' said Tan. International aid agencies and Western embassies will be forced to increase their security, he added.

The 177-room hotel is located in the center of Kabul close to government ministries. On its Web site, the hotel describes itself as an ``oasis of luxury in a war-ravaged city.''

Stoere said in a statement he was ``appalled'' by the attack, which killed journalist Carsten Thomassen. Norway has about 450 soldiers in Afghanistan under NATO command.

Australian Embassy

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said his country's embassy, which is housed in the building, was being relocated. All embassy workers are ``safe and well,'' Smith said in an e-mailed statement. Australia has almost 1,000 soldiers fighting with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Zahir Tanin, Afghanistan's ambassador to the UN, told reporters as many as eight people were killed. The government in Kabul has ``no evidence'' that Stoere was the target or that the attack was carried out by the Taliban, he said.

A U.S. citizen was among the dead, State Department spokesman Karl Duckworth said. He wouldn't provide the person's name because the department is notifying the next of kin.

Six people were wounded, including security guards, civilians and two UN workers, Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashari said in a telephone interview from Kabul.

NATO commands an international force of 41,000 soldiers in Afghanistan and is responsible for fighting insurgents and rebuilding infrastructure destroyed by more than 25 years of conflict. The U.S. has the biggest contingent, with 15,000 soldiers under NATO command and about 10,000 taking part in counterterrorism operations."

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