Egypt Independent: World-Main news en Burkina president rejects opposition calls to step down after violence <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>Burkina Faso&#39;s President Blaise Compaore said on Thursday he would stay in power at the head of a transitional government until after elections, rejecting opposition calls for him to step down immediately following a day of violent protests.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The head of the armed forces, General Honore Traore, had earlier dissolved parliament and announced talks with all political parties to create an interim government to take the West African country to democratic elections within a year.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The move came after at least three protesters were shot dead and scores wounded in clashes with security forces as demonstrators attacked the homes of senior members of the ruling party and symbols of Compaore&#39;s long rule.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Hundreds of people had earlier stormed parliament, looting the building and setting it on fire, while others ransacked state television, forcing it off the air.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Protests also gripped Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina&#39;s second-largest city, and other towns across the gold and cotton-producing country.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;I have heard the message, understood it and taken note of strong desire for change,&quot; Compaore said in a statement broadcast on BF1 TV. &quot;I am available to open talks on a transitional period at the end of which I will hand over power to the democratically elected president.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Compaore, who seized power in a military coup in 1987, said he had dissolved his government and was lifting martial law that was announced earlier in the day.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He also scrapped plans for an unpopular constitutional amendment that would have allowed him to seek reelection next year, a prospect that had sparked Thursday&#39;s protests.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Regional West African bloc ECOWAS had said earlier on Thursday that it would not accept any party seizing power through non-constitutional means - suggesting diplomatic pressure to leave Compaore in place.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>A delegation from the African Union, the United Nations and ECOWAS was due in Burkina Faso on Friday to hold talks with all parties involved.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 08:06:00 +0000 Reuters 2439393 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/10/30/484151/part-ref-ts-par8016497-1-1-0.jpg Kurds' battle for Kobani unites a people divided by borders <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>Cloaked in Kurdish flags, thousands of people lined the roads to cheer on a military convoy headed for what was - until recently - an obscure Syrian border town, now the focus of a global war against the militants of Islamic State.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga were on their way to help fellow Kurds defend Kobani in a battle that has assumed huge significance in the United States&#39; campaign to &quot;degrade and destroy&quot; the hardline Islamist insurgency.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>It is unclear whether the small but heavily armed contingent of peshmerga will be enough to swing the battle, but the deployment is a potent display of unity between Kurdish groups that more often seek to undermine each other.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The unified front is being forged as Kurds emerge as the West&#39;s most trusted and effective partner on the ground in both Iraq and Syria.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But preserving that unity be tricky, given the competing ambitions for leadership of the world&#39;s more than 30 million Kurds, the majority of whom are Sunni Muslim, but who tend to identify more strongly with their ethnicity than religion.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Governments in each of the four countries across which they are spread - Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran - have tended to exploit internal Kurdish divisions to thwart their aspirations for independence.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;We all want the Kurdish people to be united,&quot; said 33-year old Ayyoub Sheikho, who fled Kobani last month and is now living in a newly pitched row of tents at a refugee camp in Iraq&#39;s Kurdistan region. &quot;If we don&#39;t unite we will be trampled on.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Fuad Hussein, the Kurdistan president&#39;s chief of staff, said Islamic State had &quot;destroyed the borders&quot;.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;It is the same terrorist organization that attacks in (the Iraqi towns of) Khanaqin in Jalawla in Mosul in Kirkuk but also in (Syrian) Kobani, so this created a feeling of solidarity among the Kurds,&quot; he told Reuters.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>National Identity</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size: 14px;">The deployment of peshmerga to Kobani illustrates the unprecedented degree of cooperation that has emerged between Kurdish groups across borders since Islamic State overran a third of Iraq this summer and proclaimed a caliphate straddling the frontier with Syria.</span></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>When Islamic State targeted Iraqi Kurdistan in August, fighters from the Kurdistan Workers&#39; Party (PKK) descended from mountain bases on the Turkey-Iraq border to help blunt the offensive.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Around the same time, fighters from a Syrian Kurd group that has surged to prominence during the civil war there -- the People&#39;s Protection Units (YPG) -- crossed into Iraq to save thousands of minority Yazidis from death at the hands of Islamic State militants who had torn through the peshmerga&#39;s defenses.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Kurds from Iran have also been fighting alongside peshmerga forces in Iraqi Kurdistan.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Kurds today are more unified than ever before, and even if they were to take a few steps back, they will still be much further ahead than they were six months ago,&rdquo; said Henri Barkey, a former State Department official who now teaches at Lehigh University in the United States. &quot;The upshot of all of this is a consolidation of Kurdish national identity&quot;.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Stretched</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size: 14px;">If Kobani were to fall, officials in Iraqi Kurdistan say they fear a domino effect on Syria&#39;s two other Kurdish &quot;cantons&quot;, precipitating a fresh wave of refugees into the autonomous region, already struggling to accommodate more than 1 million people displaced by violence within Iraq.</span></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>It would also boost the morale of Islamic State in Iraq, where the peshmerga have been regaining ground in the north since US air strikes began in August.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Nevertheless, some question why Iraqi Kurds have deployed peshmerga abroad when they are still stretched at home, and have yet to win back all the territory they let slip.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The decision to reinforce Kobani was made under intense popular pressure from Kurds worldwide.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Barzani&#39;s efforts to extend his influence across the border into Syria have been repeatedly frustrated by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the political wing group of the YPG militia, which has emerged as the dominant Kurdish force there.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Rival Syrian Kurdish parties backed by Barzani have looked increasingly irrelevant by comparison. The U.S. government held its first publicly acknowledged meeting with the PYD in October and the YPG says it has been coordinating air strikes with the U.S. military during the Kobani campaign.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Relations between the Kurds in Iraq and Syria have been rocky.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Hundreds of Syrian Kurds trained under Barzani&#39;s auspices in northern Iraq, but the PYD refused to let them back in, saying its own YPG militia was the only legitimate armed force.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In turn, PYD leaders were denied entry to Iraqi Kurdistan, and, earlier this year, the regional government dug a trench along its frontier with Syria, citing concerns about Islamic State infiltration.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The PYD said that was a clear attempt to throttle its nascent administration, which the Iraqi Kurds did not officially recognize until this month.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But, in another sudden sign of unity, the Syrian PYD -- which some say has been tarnished by its association the Turkish militant group PKK -- struck a power-sharing deal with other Syrian factions last week, a move aimed at least in part to improve its image abroad.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Commander in Chief</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size: 14px;">As the peshmerga convoy departed Iraqi Kurdistan for Turkey, en route to Kobani, Kurds held aloft framed portraits of Barzani and his father, Mullah Mustafa, revered as a pillar of Kurdish nationalism. Some prostrated themselves in the road.</span></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>By deploying the peshmerga -- of which he is commander in chief -- to Kobani now, Barzani is boosting his credentials as a transnational leader of the Kurds and their interlocutor with the West.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>A senior member of a rival party in Iraqi Kurdistan said the move would also help boost Barzani&#39;s popularity after setbacks on the battlefield this summer, and mend some of the political damage inflicted by his perceived over-reliance on Turkey, which failed the Kurds in their time of need.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Turkey is one of Iraqi Kurdistan&#39;s closest political and economic allies, yet Ankara fears that if Syria&#39;s Kurds follow the example set by their brethren in Iraq and seek an independent state in northern Syria, it could embolden Kurdish militants in Turkey and derail a fragile peace process.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Turkey&#39;s reluctance to support the fight against Islamic State over the border in Syria enraged its own Kurdish minority, complicated efforts to provide aid to Kobani and meant negotiations to enable the passage of the peshmerga through Turkish territory were delicate and complex.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Rival groups&#39; links to different regional powers, remain a threat to Kurdish unity, according to Maria Fantappie, Iraq analyst with International Crisis Group.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;I see this as a temporary convergence of interest more than lasting realignment,&quot; she said. &quot;Beside ideological differences dividing KDP (Barzani&#39;s party) and PYD, these two parties&#39; regional ties, with Turkey and Iran respectively, remain the largest impediment to the formation of a united Kurdish front.&quot;</div> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 07:49:00 +0000 Reuters 2439391 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/10/07/94/download.jpg US 'deeply concerned' by Burkina Faso crisis <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>The United States warned Thursday that it was &quot;deeply concerned&quot; about the crisis unfolding in Burkina Faso and criticized a bid by the West African country&#39;s president to alter the constitution.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;We believe democratic institutions are strengthened when established rules are adhered to with consistency,&quot; the White House said, after protesters set fire to the parliament in Ouagadougou.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Protests erupted in Burkina Faso after supporters of President Blaise Compaore attempted to alter the constitution to remove term limits and allow him to stand for election to extend his 27-year-rule.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>On Thursday, amid widespread unrest, demonstrators broke through a security cordon and set parliament ablaze before confronting soldiers guarding a route to the presidential palace.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The White House statement, issued by National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan, urged all parties to act peacefully but blamed the unrest on the attempt to change election rules.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;The United States is deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation in Burkina Faso, resulting from efforts to amend the constitution to enable the incumbent head of state to seek another term after 27 years in office,&quot; she said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;We call on all parties, including the security forces, to end the violence and return to a peaceful process to create a future for Burkina Faso that will build on Burkina Faso&#39;s hard-won democratic gains.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The Burkina Faso government has called off the parliamentary vote on changing the constitution, but it was not immediately clear if this was a temporary concession or an admission of defeat.</div> Thu, 30 Oct 2014 16:52:00 +0000 AFP 2439386 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/10/30/484151/part-ref-ts-par8016497-1-1-0.jpg Iraqi Kurdish forces enter Syria to fight Islamic State <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>A first group of Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters entered the besieged Syrian town of Kobani on Thursday to help push back Islamic State militants who have defied US air strikes and threatened to massacre its Kurdish defenders.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Kobani, on the border with Turkey, has been encircled by the Sunni Muslim insurgents for more than 40 days. Weeks of US-led air strikes have failed to break their stranglehold, and Kurds are hoping the arrival of the peshmerga will turn the tide.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The siege of Kobani - known in Arabic as Ayn al-Arab - has become a test of the US-led coalition&#39;s ability to stop Islamic State&#39;s advance, and Washington has welcomed the peshmerga&#39;s deployment. It has intensified its air strikes in the past two days ahead of their arrival.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>A first contingent of about 10 peshmerga fighters arrived in Kobani from Turkey, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Kurdish and Turkish officials said more were expected within hours.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;That initial group, I was told, is here to carry out the planning for our strategy going forward,&quot; said Meryem Kobane, a commander with the YPG, the main Syrian Kurdish armed group defending the town.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Hemin Hawrami, a senior official in the Kurdistan Democratic Party in Iraq, wrote on Twitter that the peshmerga already in Kobani were assessing where the heavy weapons would be deployed.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Around 100 peshmerga fighters arrived by plane in southeastern Turkey on Wednesday, joined later that night by a land convoy of vehicles carrying heavy weapons including a cannon and truck-mounted machine guns.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In a compound protected by Turkish security forces near the border town of Suruc, the fighters were donning combat fatigues and preparing their weapons, a Reuters correspondent said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>US Central Command said US forces had staged 10 air strikes on Islamic State targets near Kobani since Wednesday, hitting two small insurgent units and destroying seven fighting positions and five buildings.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>More troops possible</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Syria condemned Turkey for allowing foreign fighters and &quot;terrorists&quot; to enter Syria in a violation of its sovereignty. Its foreign ministry described the move as a &quot;disgraceful act&quot;.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Turkey, which is a staunch backer of rebels fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, dismissed the comments.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;The Syrian regime has no legitimacy. Such statements from a regime that has lost its legitimacy are astonishing,&quot; a senior Turkish government official said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Around 200 Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters have also entered Kobani from Turkey to support the fight against Islamic State, according to rebel commander Abdul Jabbar al-Oqaidi and a second Turkish government official.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The FSA is a term covering dozens of armed groups fighting Assad but with little or not central command, and widely outgunned by Islamist insurgents elsewhere in the conflict.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Iraqi Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani said he was prepared to deploy more forces to Kobani if asked.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Whenever the situation on the ground necessitates and more forces are requested from us and there is passage for them, we will send more forces to protect Kobani and defeat terrorists in Western Kurdistan,&quot; he said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Islamic State has caused international alarm by capturing large expanses of Iraq and Syria, declaring an Islamic &quot;caliphate&quot; that extends across the borders between the two.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Its fighters have slaughtered or driven away Shi&#39;ite Muslims, Christians and other communities who do not share their ultra-radical brand of Sunni Islam.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In Iraq, the bodies of 220 members of a Sunni tribe captured by Islamic State this week have been found in two locations, according to security officials and witnesses.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Call for protests</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The United States and its allies in the coalition have made clear they do not plan to send troops to fight Islamic State in Syria or Iraq, but they need fighters on the ground to capitalise on their air strikes.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Syrian Kurds have called for the international community to provide them with heavier weapons and munitions and they have received an air drop from the United States.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But NATO member Turkey accuses Kurdish groups in Kobani of links to the militant PKK (Kurdistan Workers&#39; Party), which has fought a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state and is regarded as a terrorist group by Ankara, Washington and the European Union.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Ankara fears Syria&#39;s Kurds will exploit the chaos by following their brethren in Iraq and seeking to carve out an independent state in northern Syria, emboldening PKK militants in Turkey and derailing a fragile peace process.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>That has enraged Turkey&#39;s own Kurdish minority, complicated efforts to provide aid, and meant the negotiations to enable the passage of the peshmerga were delicate and complex.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;If (Islamic State) defeats the Kurds in Kobani it will lead to a reaction amongst the Kurds around the world, including Turkey,&quot; said Fuad Hussein, chief of staff to Barzani.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;There is huge interaction: what happens here, what happens in Kobani, what happens in Turkey: it affects each other so we must manage it,&quot; he told Reuters.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Turkey&#39;s pro-Kurdish HDP party, which accuses the government of favouring Islamic State over the Kurds, called for marches on Saturday in solidarity with Kobani.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Around 40 people were killed in violence that swept the southeast earlier this month as Kurdish protesters expressed fury over Turkey&#39;s refusal to send its own troops across the border to defend the besieged town.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The peshmerga were given a heroes&#39; welcome as their convoy of jeeps and flatbed trucks snaked its way for around 400 km (250 miles) through Turkey&#39;s mainly Kurdish southeast on Wednesday.</div> Thu, 30 Oct 2014 16:32:00 +0000 Reuters 2439384 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/10/30/484151/kurdish_flags.jpg