ForesightNews world briefing: upcoming events 20- 26 February

February 17, 2012

A weekly round up of world events from Monday, 20 February to Sunday, 26 February from Foresight News

By Nicole Hunt

After a false start on 9 February and another postponement on 15 February, euro zone Finance Ministers are using their regularly-scheduled meeting on Monday to discuss whether to release the next tranche of Greece’s bailout loan in light of the new austerity measures approved in Athens last week. Ministers are also expected to sign the Treaty for the European Stability Mechanism, so that the ESM can take effect from 1 July, six months earlier than planned.

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency begin their second visit to Iran in as many months to meet with Iranian government officials. The visit comes on the heels of Iran’s 15 February announcement that it had inserted domestically-produced nuclear fuel rods into its reactor, raising western concerns about the progress of its nuclear programme.

Monday also marks the one year anniversary of the beginning of protests in Morocco, one of the more peaceful campaigns of the Arab Spring movement. There have been rumblings of protests to mark the anniversary by members of the February 20 Youth Movement unhappy with the speed of democratic reforms.

Just over a year after the beginning of considerably less smooth protests in Yemen, which saw nearly 2,000 people killed by the time a power-transfer agreement was brokered in November 2011, Yemenis go to the polls to officially approve the transfer of power from long-time President Ali Abdullah Saleh to Vice President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi. Hadi runs unopposed as the consensus candidate for the country’s major parties, and will lead the country through a transition period before further elections can be held.

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who has been tipped to replace President Hu Jintao in the leadership shuffle this autumn, continues an overseas jaunt that has seen him visit the US and Ireland with a short trip to Turkey to meet with President Abdullah Gul. The meeting could be a bit tense, though, as Turkey have been vocal proponents of international action on Syria, while China recently joined Russia in blocking a UN Security Council resolution condemning President Bashar Al Assad’s regime.

The Committee to Protect Journalists launches its annual Attacks on the Press report right here at the Frontline Club.

The Pakistani Supreme Court Commission investigating the so-called ‘memogate’ incident sits again on Wednesday, hoping to finally hear testimony from Mansoor Ijaz, the man responsible for revealing the existence of the memo in an FT op-ed. Ijaz has failed to appear before the Commission on three previous occasions, citing safety concerns, and has been allowed to record his testimony from the Pakistani High Commission in London this time around.

Megaupload founder Kim DotCom (aka Kim Schmitz) is back in court in New Zealand, this time to face his first extradition hearing, having been twice denied bail since being arrested in January. DotCom is fighting extradition to the US on suspicion of ‘running an international organised criminal enterprise allegedly responsible for massive worldwide online piracy’.

London hosts the International Conference on Somalia on Thursday. Ministers from around the world convene to discuss piracy, protection of ships in the Gulf of Aden, Islamic extremists, the causes of conflict and instability in Somalia, and how to support surrounding countries. Kenya hosted a regional conference on 9 Febraury as part of preparations, while Foreign Secretary William Hague visited Somalia on 2 February, becoming the first UK Foreign Secretary to do so in 20 years.

Following his much-publicised preliminary hearing in December, Private First Class Bradley Manning returns to Meade, Maryland for a formal arraignment hearing, the first step in his eventual court-martial for allegedly passing information to WikiLeaks.

Tunisia hosts the first Friends of Syria meeting on Friday, with confirmed attendees including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. The meeting is reminiscent of the Libya Contact Group conferences that were organised as the campaign against Muammar Gaddafi intensified there, though the first LCG on 13 April, 2011 came just two months after the protests in Libya began; the Friends of Syria will meet as the Syrian protests approach their one year anniversary.

G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors hold their first meeting of the year in Mexico City on Saturday and Sunday. As always these days, the European debt crisis is likely to be high on the agenda, though ministers will also be discussing a $500bn increase in IMF funding to help the Fund cope with the demands of the crisis. Mexican Finance Minister Jose Antonio Meade said earlier this month that a consensus on the funding was ‘unlikely’ this month.

Normally-quiet Sunday is actually a day of big decisions this week, though some are considerably bigger than others. In Los Angeles, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announces their Oscar-winning choices.

In Senegal, voters decide who will be the country’s President for the next seven years, or at least who will take part in a second round runoff. Incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade’s candidacy was approved by the Constitutional Court last month, despite protests from his opponents that he should be ineligible for a third term. Senegal’s constitution limits leaders to two presidential terms, but Wade argued that since the term limit was introduced after he’d already been elected the first time, it shouldn’t apply to his first term.

Finally, Syrian President Bashar al Assad announced on 15 February that the country’s constitutional referendum, not expected until March, would take place on Sunday. The new constitution would allow for changes to Syria’s electoral system, which currently reserves the majority of parliamentary seats for supporters of Assad’s Baath party.