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Hamas slams German foreign minister’s refusal to meet

Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (4th R) stands in front of students during a visit to a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school in Gaza City November 8, 2010. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

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Militant group furious at snub from Guido Westerwelle during Gaza visit.

November 08, 2010 (KATAKAMI / HAARETZ) — The Hamas administration in the Gaza on Monday slammed as “insulting” the refusal by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to meet it while visiting the strip.

Senior Hamas leader and legislator Kamal Shrafi said that while the Islamist Palestinian movement welcomed a visit by an official of his standing, it was “completely wrong to come to Gaza and not meet with the legal government’s representative.”

Westerwelle is the first German government official to visit the Gaza Strip in nearly four years. On Monday, he visited a girls’ school and toured a water treatment plant.

He said he would not meet Hamas over its repeated refusal to renounce violence, honour previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements and accept Israel’s right to resist. Hamas, which has administered the Gaza Strip since June 2007, is subject to a Western diplomatic boycott.

“We really condemn the refusal of officials and diplomats to hold talks with the Palestinian government, which was legally elected with transparency by the Palestinian people. Every official arriving in Gaza did not meet with anybody here, and this is really
insulting,” Shrafi said.

Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, but a unity government set up with President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party was dismissed after Hamas militants routed security officials loyal to Abbas and the Palestinian Authority and seized full control of the enclave.

Abbas also dismissed Hamas leader Ismail Haniya from his post of prime minister, a dismissal Hamas did not accept.

“We are legal government, and I believe that it is completely wrong to come to Gaza and not meet with the legal government’s representatives,” Shrafi said.

Westerwelle also met with Gaza businessmen Monday to discuss economic problems in the enclave, which has been under an Israeli blockade since the summer of 2006.

At a press conference along with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman in Jerusalem following his arrival on Sunday, Westerwelle called on Israel to allow exports to leave Gaza, saying such a move was “necessary.”

Israel imposed its blockade after militants from the enclave, led by Hamas, launched a raid in which they snatched an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, who is still being held.

The blockade was significantly tightened after the Hamas seizure of the Strip, but was eased in the summer of this year, although Israel still does not permit exports to leave.(*)

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Germany’s Foreign Minister called on Hamas to free captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, during a visit to the Gaza Strip

Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (L) stands next to Noam Shalit, father of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, at the start of their meeting in Jerusalem November 7, 2010. Shalit was captured by Palestinian militants who tunnelled from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel in June 2006. (Getty Images / REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun )

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November 08, 2010 (KATAKAMI / Jpost) — Westerwelle says his country sees speedy return of soldier to his family as humane step; comments come a day after meetings with Noam Schalit, Lieberman, Shimon Peres in J’lem.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Monday called on Hamas to free captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, during a visit to the Gaza Strip.

He urged the terror group to “finally free this young man, after so many years in captivity.”

Westerwelle says his country sees speedy return of soldier to his family as humane step; comments come a day after meetings with Noam Schalit, Lieberman, Peres in J’lem.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Monday called on Hamas to free captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, during a visit to the Gaza Strip.

He urged the terror group to “finally free this young man, after so many years in captivity.”

Westerwelle stressed that Germany views the speedy return of Schalit to his family as the humane step.

His comments came a day after a meeting with the soldier’s father, Noam Schalit, as well as President Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat in Jerusalem.

During a press conference after their Sunday meeting, Lieberman said that the biggest threat to the Middle East is Iran.

“Not only Iran with its nuclear problem, but Iran through its proxies in its terrorist activity in all our regions. We see Iranian activities through proxies in Lebanon through Hizbullah, in the Palestinian Authority through Hamas, their deep involvement in Iraq, in Yemen, in Somalia and, of course, this threat may be the biggest threat that we are facing as a Western society, as a free society in the modern world,” Lieberman told his German counterpart.

He also said that while Israel has a “political dispute” with the Palestinians, it also has “very good cooperation with the Palestinians on the security level and on economy.”

Westerwelle referred to Schalit, saying that Germany has an “abolultely clear position” that the soldier be “released very soon.”

“We think that our Israeli friends know that they can count on us. And I do not want to comment any further because it is very important that we help the family, that we help this poor young man and that we see him as soon as possible, safe and healthy, back in the arms of his family,” the German foreign minister said.  (*)

Medvedev urges to develop various trends of Russia-Germany coop

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (2nd R), his wife Svetlana (L) meet with German President Christian Wulff (2nd L) and his wife Bettina (R) at the Kremlin, in Moscow, on October 12, 2010. Wulff is on his state visit to Russia. (Getty Images)

 

MOSCOW, October 12 (KATAKAMI / Itar-Tass) – Russian President Dmitry Medvedev hopes that the negotiations with his German counterpart Christian Wulff will be fruitful and interesting. Medvedev stated about it Tuesday opening a narrow-format meeting with his German counterpart. Before the negotiations both leaders with their spouses were participating in an official welcome ceremony of the German high guest, who is on a state visit in Russia.

“I hope for interesting and fruitful negotiations,” Medvedev stated.

“The scale of your visit notes broad and diversified relations between Germany and Russia,” Medvedev said. “Our relations are strategic, partnership and highly developed,” he pointed out. “Germany is our major partner in the European Union,” the Russian president remarked. “We have highly developed economic ties and we also have special relations between political structures, regions, parties, civil society institutions; all this is making the essence of relations,” the president underlined.

“We should develop various trends of cooperation,” Medvedev urged, noting humanitarian contacts in this respect.

The German president agreed with his Russian counterpart that his visit will contribute to the development of bilateral relations. “I hope that we will have an opportunity to discuss all issues we are interested in,” Wulff said.

“Germany and Russia have a long common changeable history and we take your friendship as a great gift to the German people,” he said. “Our mutual sympathy and interests confirm how close our peoples are,” the German president added.

“We are following with a keen interest the situation in your country and consider ourselves as natural partners in promoting the modernization in Russia,” Wulff said. “We are seeking to intensify relations with your country, which is passing the stage of reforms, and to expand relations not only in economy, but also in education, legal protection, public institutions and culture,” he added.

Photostream : Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev meets Germany’s President Christian Wulff

 

From left: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's wife Svetlana, German President Christian Wulff, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and Wulff's wife Bettina prepare for a photo in the Moscow Kremlin, on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010. Wulff is on a state visit to Russia.

 

 

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (2ndR), his wife Svetlana (L) meet with German President Christian Wulff (2ndL) and his wife Bettina (R) at the Kremlin in Moscow on October 12, 2010. Wulff is on a state visit to Russia. (Getty Images)

 

 

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) presents flowers to German President Christian Wulff's wife, Bettina at the Kremlin in Moscow on October 12, 2010. German President Christian Wulff and his wife Bettina are on a state visit to Russia. AFP PHOTO / POOL / ALEXANDER NEMENOV (Photo : ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)

 

 

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) shows the way to German President Christian Wulff (R) as he arrives at the Kremlin in Moscow on October 12, 2010 during his state visit. (Photo : ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)

 

 

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev (R) talks to Germany's President Christian Wulff during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow October 12, 2010. (Getty Images)

 

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Germany mourns Love Parade victims at memorial service

German lower house of parliament Bundestag president Norbert Lammert (L-R), Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Christian Wulff and his wife Bettina (3L) and Hannelore Kraft, state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia NRW attend a memorial service in Salvator Church (Salvatorkirche) in Duisburg July 31, 2010. (Getty Images)

July 31, 2010

(KATAKAMI / BBC)  Germany has held an emotional memorial service for 21 people killed at the Love Parade dance festival last weekend.

At the service, a top state official vowed that authorities would do everything to find out who was responsible for the tragedy.

More than 500 people were injured during a mass panic at the event in the western city of Duisburg.

As a mark of respect, flags across Germany flew at half-mast.

Visibly shaken, the state governor of North Rhine-Westphalia, Hannelore Kraft, said the authorities owed it to the relatives of the victims as well as to the injured and rescue workers to thoroughly investigate what led to the mass panic in a tunnel leading to the festival site.

Chancellor Angela Merkel had broken off her summer holiday to attend the memorial service at the Salvator Church in Duisburg, along with friends and relatives of those killed at the Love Parade festival.

“The Love Parade was like a dance of death,” the head of the regional Lutheran church, Nikolaus Schneider, said in his sermon.

“In the middle of a celebration of the lust for life, death showed its ugly face to all of us.”

Rescue workers who had helped to look after the victims at the Love Parade site lit a candle for each person who died.

They later carried the candles to the tunnel where the festival-goers were killed and where another service is due to be held this afternoon.

The service at the Salvator Church was broadcast live on German television, and hundreds were watching it on big television screens at other churches and a football stadium in the city.

Love Parade tragedy

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Angelika Schick, who visited the Love Parade with her two daughters, watched the service in the stadium of local team MSV Duisburg. “I hope this service will help me to find peace”, she told German public broadcaster ARD.

Before the service, church bells across Duisburg and neighbouring cities rang in memory of those who died.

All week long people have been laying flowers and lighting candles at the exit to the tunnel where the deadly stampede took place.

Prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation to determine whether negligent manslaughter was involved in the deaths of so many young people.

Police investigators have accused the Love Parade organisers of failing to control the huge crowds which led to a bottleneck at the tunnel, the only entrance to the festival grounds.

Feelings have been running high and angry residents have staged rallies demanding the resignation of Duisburg’s mayor, who has been blamed for ignoring safety warnings in the run-up to the festival, BBC correspondent Tristana Moore in Berlin says.

The mayor, Adolf Sauerland did not attend the memorial service. Mr Sauerland said he feared his presence would hurt the feelings of victims’ relatives. He has been placed under police protection after receiving a number of death threats.

The festival organisers have said that they will discontinue the Love Parade.

Germany to Investigate Deaths in ‘Love Parade’ Stampede

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Associated Press

People place flowers and candles in a street near the accident site in Duisburg, Germany, on Sunday.

July 25, 2010

(KATAKAMI / THE WALLSTREET JOURNAL)  Local authorities and organizers of Europe’s biggest electronic-music event faced harsh criticism for their handling of a massive crowd after at least 19 people died and 342 were injured in a stampede at the “Love Parade” techno festival in Germany on Saturday.

The death toll continued to climb Sunday as organizers, German officials and police defended their decision to use a narrow roadway tunnel as the lone entrance for hundreds of thousands of revelers trying to reach the festival grounds in the western German city of Duisburg.

The tragedy has stunned Germany, a safety-conscious country usually adept at organizing large street parties and other public events without mishap.

As hospitals treated many of the injured, German public prosecutors opened an investigation into what caused the crowd of young partygoers to panic and stampede in the vicinity of the tunnel.

Emergency workers administer first aid to revelers who collapsed at Germany’s Love Parade.

“This absolutely didn’t need to happen,” said Matthias Roeingh, a DJ known to most Germans as Dr. Motte, who founded the Love Parade festival in Berlin in 1989.

“I put a lot of blame on the organizers,” said Mr. Roeingh, who wasn’t involved in this year’s event and didn’t attend. “This entry street, which brought people together at the tunnel, and the security at the entrance created a pileup. People couldn’t move forward or back. Those were the conditions that let this panic break out,” he said.

“I think now we need a very thorough investigation of how it came to this,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday. “We have to do everything we can so that something like this isn’t repeated.”

Duisburg city officials approved the use of the site, planned the crowd flow and were responsible for managing it. Duisburg’s mayor, Adolf Sauerland, appealed at a news conference on Sunday for the public “to give the investigating officials the time they need to do their work, and not to assign blame hastily.”

As many as 1.4 million people descended on Duisburg for the party Saturday, according to German media reports, and the stampede started around 5 p.m. local time, shortly after police closed the tunnel because the festival grounds were too full. Police told those in the tunnel over loudspeakers to turn around and walk out from the direction they came, according to German media reports.

Duisburg police chief Detlef von Schmeling declined to confirm the size of the crowd or that police sealed off the tunnel and told people to turn around just before the stampede. He said none of the victims—who include citizens of Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, China, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain as well as Germans—died in the tunnel itself, but that they fell from metal steps or were crushed against a billboard on the hillside outside as they tried to climb away from the swelling crowd.

Footage on broadcaster N-TV showed people clambering over metal barricades and up a steep hillside outside the tunnel.

German police union leader Rainer Wendt said in an interview on the Bild newspaper’s website that he warned Love Parade organizers more than a year ago that Duisburg was “too narrow, too small to handle this mass of people.”

Ms. Merkel said she was “horrified and saddened by the suffering and the pain…The young people came to celebrate, and instead there are dead and injured.”

Pope Benedict XVI, a native German, expressed his sorrow during his weekly blessing from Castel Gandolfo, his summer residence south of Rome, and said he was praying for the victims.

The Love Parade was a Berlin institution during the 1990s, drawing techno fans and party-seekers from around the world to follow semitrailers converted into rolling dance clubs. From spontaneous beginnings, the parade grew into a major commercial event that consistently drew over a million people.

Financial troubles and a dispute with Berlin officials brought an end to the event in 2007, but organizers revived it in the industrial Ruhr region that year.

Last year’s Love Parade in Bochum was cancelled after city officials determined that they didn’t have a site large enough to hold the potential crowd. This year was the first time the festival was held in Duisburg.

At a news conference on Sunday, Rainer Schaller, one of the organizers, said it would be the last Love Parade.

“It will always be overshadowed by yesterday’s events,” said Mr. Schaller, part of a small group of people who handle funding for the Love Parade. “It’s over for the Love Parade.”  (*)

Photostream : 18 killed in mass panic at German music festival

DUISBURG, GERMANY – JULY 24: Abandoned garments are seen in the tunnel where a stampede crushed at least 18 people to death and injured dozens at Germany’s famous Love Parade festival on July 24, 2010 in Duisburg, Germany. Thousands of other revelers keep partying at the event unaware of the deadly stampede that started when police tried to block thousands more people from entering the already-jammed parade grounds. (Getty Images)

DUISBURG, GERMANY – JULY 24: A policeman stands at the scene of the accident in the tunnel where a stampede crushed at least 18 people to death and injured dozens at Germany’s famous Love Parade festival on July 24, 2010 in Duisburg, Germany. Thousands of other revelers keep partying at the event unaware of the deadly stampede that started when police tried to block thousands more people from entering the already-jammed parade grounds. (Getty Images)

Rescue workers attend an injured person as firefighters and police officers stand beside casualties after a stampede in a tunnel during the Love Parade festival in Duisburg, western Germany, Saturday, July 24, 2010. A stampede inside a tunnel crowded with techno music fans left at least 18 people dead and dozens injured at the famed Love Parade festival. (Getty Images)

An ambulance leaves a tunnel after a stampede at this year’s techno-music festival “Loveparade 2010” in Duisburg, Germany, on Saturday, July 24, 2010. A stampede inside the tunnel crowded with techno music fans crushed more than a dozen to death at Germany’s famed Love Parade festival on Saturday. Thousands of other revelers keep partying at the event in Duisburg, near Duesseldorf, unawae of the deadly stampede that started when police tried to block thousands of people from entering the already-jammed parade grounds. (Getty Images)

DUISBURG, GERMANY – JULY 24: Abandoned garments and garbage are seen in the tunnel where a stampede crushed at least 18 people to death and injured dozens at Germany’s famous Love Parade festival on July 24, 2010 in Duisburg, Germany. Thousands of other revelers keep partying at the event unaware of the deadly stampede that started when police tried to block thousands more people from entering the already-jammed parade grounds. (Getty Images)

Germany rejects ‘transfer bid’ for octopus oracle Paul

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July 17, 2010

 

 

(KATAKAMI / BBC)  A German zoo has turned down a “transfer request” from Spain for its star performer during the football World Cup – Paul the “psychic” octopus.

The cephalopod correctly predicted the outcome of all of Germany’s seven matches in the tournament, and also plumped for Spain to lift the trophy.

This made him an instant hero in Spain, and now Madrid’s Zoo says it wants to put Paul on display in its aquarium.

But Oberhausen’s Sea Life centre said there was no chance of Paul being sold.

“We’re very glad that Paul will stay here,” Sea Life spokeswoman Tunja Munzig said, adding that any other possible bids from abroad would be rejected.

Earlier, Madrid Zoo official Javier Diaz said the management was in talks with Oberhausen to see if the Germans wanted to exchange the 2.5-year-old octopus for “one of the species we have here”.

“What they might need is coral or small sharks. But if they don’t want any of that we might offer some money,” Mr Diaz said.

Honorary citizen

Ever since Paul predicted Spain’s triumph in the month-long tournament in South Africa, he has become a celebrity in Spain.

Fans watching last Sunday’s final in Madrid sported mini-Pauls on their T-shirts and squidgy replicas on top of their hats.

The octopus is already an honorary citizen of one Spanish town, and a summer festival in Paul’s name is being planned in the country.

Even Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero stepped in to offer protection, after bitter German fans threatened to eat Paul for predicting Germany’s defeat in the semi-final against Spain.

One Spanish fan said that Paul should replace the bull, which is often seen on Spanish flags.

“The octopus has done more [good] things that the bull,” the fan said.

But sadly for many Spaniards, Paul is staying home in Oberhausen.