Reconciliation Key For Ivorian Recovery

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, Aug. 5 (UPI) — The way members of the former Ivorian government are treated could influence the war-torn country’s reconciliation process, a U.N. rights envoy said.

French peacekeepers helped detain former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo in April, ending a period of political violence that followed November presidential elections meant to heal the wounds from the country’s civil war.

Gbagbo refused to step down despite international recognition that rival candidate Alassane Ouattara, now president, won the election.

Guillaume Ngefa, acting human rights chief for the U.N. mission in Ivory Coast, said following meetings with former leaders, including Gbagbo, that treatment of members of the former regime was vital for the nation’s recovery.

“We are emerging from a crisis and the way officials of the former regime are treated can influence the efforts of everyone in the process of national reconciliation, given their special status,” he said in a statement.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his latest report on Ivory Coast warned the post-conflict situation in the country was “extremely precarious.”

International rights groups blame both sides for human rights abuses during the political crisis. At the request of Ouattara, the International Criminal Court is investigating the violence.

Ousting Gadhafi Is End Goal, U.S. Says

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (UPI) — There is unity among the parties involved that see the ultimate goal as ousting Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi from power, a U.S. State Department official said.

The rebel-backed Transitional National Council for Libya has made diplomatic gains in recent weeks. It’s widely recognized as the legitimate authority by members of the NATO-led operation in Libya and is moving to set up a diplomatic presence in many Western countries.

Saif Gadhafi, one of the Libyan leader’s sons, said in a recent interview with The New York Times that he was trying to work with radical Islamic elements within the Libyan rebel movement.

A leader in the rebel government in Benghazi, meanwhile, said rival factions were responsible for killing a key TNC leader last week, raising concerns opposition forces in Libya were showing signs of division.

U.S. officials have brushed off suggestions that unity within the Libyan rebel movement was unraveling.

Mark Toner, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said he questioned much of the rhetoric coming out of the Gadhafi regime in Tripoli.

He acknowledged there were problems with “cohesion” but stressed rebels were working on addressing those problems.

“I think it’s fair to say that the TNC is aware of that potential problem and working (on it),” he said. “But at this point, there’s unity towards the ultimate goal, which is ousting Gadhafi.”

EU Financial Chief: We Have To Watch Words

BRUSSELS, Aug. 5 (UPI) — Olli Rehn, the economic affairs commissioner for the European Union, tried to reassure investors Friday about the Spanish and Italian economies.

Rehn broke his vacation with a news conference in Brussels. He blamed poor communication for the drop in stock prices and said Italy and Spain are both basically doing well.

“We all in Europe will have to ensure rigor in our communications and sufficient verbal discipline so that we ensure our joint message will be listened to and understood in the way we want it to be understood,” Rehn said. “If you look at so-called market forces, or market players and perceptions, what they are after — they are after making money and that is driven by fear and greed.”

He said his staff continues to work hard through the August vacation season.

Rehn defended Jose Manuel Barroso, the head of the European Commission, who suggested in a letter Thursday everything in the July 21 financial bailout agreement could still change.

“President Barroso’s first and foremost objective with this letter was to speed up the implementation of the agreement of the 21st of July,” he said.

Stars Turn Out For Obama’s 50th Birthday

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (UPI) — Comedian Chris Rock said via Twitter Herbie Hancock and Stevie Wonder helped President Barack Obama celebrate his 50th birthday at the White House.

Politico said rapper Jay-Z, actors Tom Hanks and Hill Harper, actress Whoopi Goldberg and basketball stars Charles Barkley and Grant Hill also attended Thursday night’s bash.

“Just left the Presidents birthday party at the White House. Herbie Hancock played, Stevie Wonder sang and yes they did the electric slide. A great night,” Rock said on Twitter.

Deal Reached On Voting For 3 Trade Pacts

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (UPI) — U.S. Senate leaders said they reached agreement to bring three long-delayed trade deals up for a vote when Congress returns from its August recess.

As part of the deal, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also agreed to vote on the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which provides aid and retraining to workers who lost jobs because work was shipped overseas, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

The White House and Democratic congressional allies insisted Congress renew the worker assistance program to move forward on the trade deals with South Korea, Panama and Colombia.

Reid and McConnell agreed to bring the assistance program up for a vote before considering the trade pacts.

The trade deals, engineered by former President George W. Bush, have been held up by an impasse between Democrats and Republicans over renewing the assistance program, which expires in February. Democrats and the White House want the trade assistance renewal to be voted on along with the three trade pacts while Republicans insist they be considered separately.

“These agreements will support tens of thousands of jobs here at home,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said.

The White House and Democrats also were negotiating terms of a House vote with Speaker John Boehner, who has said he would bring the trade deals and the assistance program to the floor for a vote, the Post said.

“While some sequencing details remain to be worked out, the speaker has now clearly committed to floor consideration of TAA, along with the trade agreements,” said Carol Guthrie, a trade representative’s office spokeswoman. “The Senate leaders’ agreement on a way forward is an important step on the path to submission of the pending agreements.”

Cobham Gets Missile Defense Awards

ARLINGTON, Va., Aug. 5 (UPI) — Cobham Analytic Solutions has been awarded nine task orders for engineering support to the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

The orders carry a combined total of $227 million over two years.

The task order awards were competed under the MDA Engineering and Support Services omnibus contract vehicle and covers support in the areas of weapons engineering; flight test; command, control, communications battle management; operations support; modeling and simulation; component test, facilities, laser system engineering and space system engineering.

“These wins represent a continuation of Cobham’s longstanding support to the Missile Defense Agency as well as expanding into new areas,” Cobham Analytic Solutions President Randy Morgan said.

“Cobham has been providing missile defense engineering and analysis expertise for 30 years, starting with the original architecture designs.

Work will be performed across the United States, with primary support concentrated in the National Capital Region; Huntsville, Ala; and Colorado Springs.

Cobham Analytic Solutions, a subsidiary of Britain’s Cobham Plc, was formerly named SPARTA Inc.

IDPs In Georgia Worry Amnesty

LONDON, Aug. 5 (UPI) — Though Georgia’s government has done more for the plight of internally displaced, they still make up 6 percent of the population, Amnesty International said.

Amnesty International, in a report published Friday, highlighted what it said was a pattern of forced evictions of the internally displaced in Georgia.

The advocacy group said Tbilisi has found adequate housing for the estimated 250,000 people displaced by war in the 1990s and in 2008. The forced evictions of many others, however, suggest the government isn’t upholding its international obligations.

Amnesty International said about 6 percent of the population has struggled with displacement-related issues for more than a decade.

People uprooted by war need stable environments to rebuild their lives,” Natalia Nozadze, Amnesty International’s Georgia researcher, said in a statement. “Instead the authorities have added to their sense of insecurity by evicting them without adequate consultation, notice or access to legal remedies.”

From June-August 2010 and again in January, Amnesty International said more than 1,000 families were kicked out of temporary shelters in Tbilisi.

Judicial Panel Hears Arguments Over Lesbian Juror

PASADENA, Calif., Aug. 5 (UPI) — A U.S. appeals court in California is considering arguments in a case in which a lesbian potential juror was dismissed from a case regarding a gay inmate.

Trial lawyers shouldn’t be able to dismiss potential jurors because of their sexual orientation, defense attorneys told a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Thursday’s arguments resulted from a case a year ago in which a prosecutor excluded a lesbian from the jury pool in an assault case against gay, Nigerian-born Daniel Osazuwa.

The prosecutor in that case had legitimate reasons for removing the potential juror, U.S. Attorney Mark R. Yohalem told the panel, because she told the court her close friends included some Nigerians, and not because she was gay.

Jon W. Davidson, legal director for the national Lambda Legal organization that litigates court challenges on behalf of lesbians and gays, said he hoped what some refer to as the “Osazuwa” challenge would result in more protection for homosexuals.

The 9th Circuit panel is “hard to read,” Davidson said.

The federal judiciary has added gender and religion to constitutionally protected categories, but efforts to add sexual orientation has so far failed, the report said.

China Has New Rules On Panda Exhibitions

BEIJING, Aug. 5 (UPI) — China’s State Forestry Administration, in a move aimed at protecting endangered pandas, announced new rules on exhibition of the animals.

The SFA said on its Web site pandas under the age of 2 or older than 25 cannot be used for exhibition purposes, China’s official state news agency Xinhua reported Thursday.

Non-artificially-bred pandas may not be featured in exhibitions, the SFA said, and exhibition organizers must obtain the proper licenses.

Exhibitors will be required to arrange for annual physical examinations for their pandas and keep accurate records of their medical histories. Transferring pandas to a third party is prohibited.

About 210 pandas live in captivity and about 1,600 live in the wild, mostly in southwest China’s Szechuan province.

Polar Bear Kills 1, Injures 4 In Norway

TROMSO, Norway, Aug. 5 (UPI) — A polar bear killed one member of a British group traveling in Norway and seriously injured four others, authorities said.

The bear attacked early Friday in a remote wilderness popular with tourists, researchers and adventurers, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office in the Svalbard district told the BBC.

The five had been traveling with a “British group” but it had not been confirmed if they were U.K. citizens, she said.

The governor’s office confirmed four people had been airlifted to a hospital and the bear had been killed following the attack.

The U.K. Foreign Office said its embassy in Oslo is “urgently” looking into the incident.