The next for Iraq after Sadr's comeback?

Doplang News, The enigmatic cleric mobilized millions of poor Shi'ite Muslims after the 2003 invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein and his militia battled U.S. forces. His return could mean a shift away from fiery rhetoric in the wake of his bloc's political gains in last year's election.

The support of the Sadrists, thought to have been brokered at least in part by Iran, was crucial in securing a second term for Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and ending a 9-month deadlock over the formation of a government.
Embracing the political process, rather than armed struggle, the Sadrist movement toned down its religious rhetoric, and cast itself as less sectarian in last year's election. It focused on public services, and grabbed 39 seats in Iraq's 325-parliament and seven ministries in Iraq's new government.

His Mehdi Army militia played a big role in violence against Sunnis during the peak of sectarian warfare in 2006-07.

military withdraws and Iraq seeks to use its tremendous oil wealth to rebuild.

The following are some scenarios:


The first question is whether Sadr will stay, or go back to Iran.

But some of Sadr's companions who escorted him from Iran gave the impression he is here to stay, a Sadrist official said. Sadr himself has not made any public announcement of his plans.


But Sadr is not expected to seek a role in government.

In his first statement issued after his return, Sadr criticized followers who jostled and shoved each other to get a glimpse of him when he arrived. He said their chants and slogans damaged the reputation of the Sadr family, and urged restraint.


Envoy on mission to ease Korean tensions

Doplang News, SEOUL - The United States' point man on North Korea arrived in Seoul Tuesday, calling for "serious negotiations" to ease tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear programme and deadly attack on a South Korean island.

Ambassador Stephen Bosworth, the US special representative for North Korea policy, said he would closely coordinate with South Korea and China on how to deal with North Korea. "We believe that serious negotiations must be at the heart of any strategy for dealing with North Korea and we look forward to being able to launch those at a reasonably early time," he told reporters at the airport.

But Seoul, Washington and Tokyo have been lukewarm, saying Pyongyang first needs to show it is sincere about denuclearisation and mending ties with Seoul.

"I will let the Chinese speak for themselves on that. That's an important relationship for both countries," Bosworth said. It insisted the plant is designed solely to fuel a light-water reactor being built to produce energy. But US officials and experts say this could easily be converted to produce weapons-grade uranium.

The North shut down its elderly plutonium-producing reactor in 2007 under a six-nation deal.

Bosworth's Asia tour, which also includes Tokyo, comes after Seoul reached out to Pyongyang with a signal to open talks after months of high tensions.

North Korea, in a joint New Year editorial by state media on Saturday, said tensions "should be defused as early as possible," stressing dialogue, and that cooperation "should be promoted proactively."

In an apparent response to the North's conciliatory gesture, South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak said Monday that Seoul was open to talks if Pyongyang showed its sincerity towards mending ties.


No-confidence vote

Doplang News, ISLAMABAD (AP) - Pakistan's most powerful opposition group hinted Tuesday that it would not back a no-confidence vote against the prime minister - a stance that could save the government of this nuclear-armed nation from toppling.

The possibility of government collapse is the latest crisis facing Pakistan as it grapples with a foundering economy, relentless militant attacks and U.S. demands to help turn around the war in Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, senior members of the Pakistan Muslim League-N, the leading opposition group, wouldn't say where they stood on a no-confidence vote before they convened in Islamabad to decide.

"Our aim is not to overthrow this government, but if it collapses, it will collapse because of its own incompetence and bad governance," said PML-N spokesman Sadiqul Farooq.

Gilani could rule with a minority coalition but would have to step down if he lost a no-confidence vote. Parliament could then vote on an alternative candidate or possibly move toward early elections.

The prime minister met with the PML-N and other opposition groups Monday in an apparent attempt to head off a no-confidence motion.

A no-confidence measure would require a majority of the 342-seat parliament to pass.

The PML-N has also expressed reservations about forming a coalition government with other opposition parties, with which it has troubled relations.

"We do not want to form a weak government with help from the small political groups," said Farooq, the PML-N spokesman. "If we do it, the coalition partners would start blackmailing us."

But Farooq cautioned that his party would do nothing to help prop up the PPP-led government.

"If they can complete their five-year term, they are most welcome to do it," said Farooq. "But if they cannot run the government after losing a majority, then they should decide whether fresh elections are required."


Ivory Coast's Gbagbo's Time running out

Doplang News, ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast - For the second time, Ivory Coast's renegade leader rebuffed an appeal from a high-level regional delegation to cede power to the internationally recognized winner of presidential elections, who said the time has come for military intervention.

The leaders from Benin, Cape Verde and Sierra Leone planned to discuss the next step Tuesday in Nigeria with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who is the current chairman of the 15-nation West African regional bloc ECOWAS.

They will be making "a comprehensive statement" on their mission after consulting with Jonathan, said Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who is serving as the African Union's envoy for the Ivory Coast crisis.

The delegation's first effort last week to force him into exile failed, and there were no signs that Gbagbo had softened his position in Monday's visit by the three West African presidents and Odinga.

They had presented Gbagbo with an amnesty deal if he steps down. ECOWAS will need to use all the means at its disposal including the use of legitimate force so that the president that was elected can assume his functions."

Col. Mohammed Yerima, a Nigerian military spokesman, said defense chiefs from ECOWAS member states met last week to begin strategizing what sort of assault they would use if talks fail. Analysts, though, have questioned how quickly ECOWAS could mobilize a force and whether they could remove Gbagbo without a full-scale invasion resulting in heavy civilian casualties.

Despite increasing international pressure, including visa bans by the European Union and the U.S., Gbagbo has stayed in power with the backing of the army. The UN has been barred entry from a building believed to be housing 60 to 80 of the bodies.

Even as Gbagbo's meeting with the African leaders was going on, his closest advisers continued to insist that the 65-year-old had won the election.

Ouattara has been shut out of the institutions of power in Ivory Coast but is attempting to govern from a hotel in Abidjan where he and his staff are barricaded behind sandbags and razor wire. He is protected by United Nations peacekeepers, but Gbagbo's security forces have set up checkpoints on the roads leading to the hotel, barring anyone from entering or exiting.

In recent weeks, getting supplies to the Golf Hotel has become increasingly difficult, and the UN started running daily helicopter flights that land on the hotel's lawn ferrying cartons of vegetables and tins of powdered milk.

In Washington, U.S. They said the window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

"We hope that President Gbagbo will listen intently to the message that he needs to step down," U.S. "So far, he hasn't."

President Barack Obama tried to call Gbagbo three times last month, including twice from Air Force One. He did not reach Gbagbo and at one point, Obama was told that Gbagbo was "resting." Administration officials believe the Ivorian leader sought to avoid contact. So Obama wrote Gbagbo a letter, offering him an international role if he steps down.

Obama also made clear, that the longer Gbagbo holds on and the more complicit he becomes in violence across the country, the more limited his options become, said a senior administration official who requested anonymity to speak about administration strategy.

Gbagbo came to power in 2000 and ruled during the civil war that erupted two years later, then overstayed his legal term which expired in 2005, claiming the country was too unstable to organize a poll. The election was rescheduled at least six times before it was finally held in October.


snakes keep residents away

Doplang News, Raging, snake-infested floodwaters are frightening residents in the sodden city of Rockhampton as they evacuate their homes ahead of the Fitzroy River's peak.

More than 20 cities and towns are waterlogged around Queensland as the state remains in the grip of a flood crisis.

The river in Rockhampton, described as a chocolatey, yellow colour and choking with debris, is predicted to peak at 9.4 metres tomorrow.

Resident John Peacock had to flee the floodwaters with just one change of clothes.

He says it is heart-breaking knowing everything he owns is being ruined.

"It's really, really dirty.

It looks so scary at the moment."

He says the floodwaters are too frightening to wade through.

"It's a raging torrent.

"There's heaps of snakes at the moment in that water and I just knew if I went back to have a look and see if I could salvage anything that I was taking the risk of getting bitten."

Mr Peacock's home is among 500 being vacated because of the floodwaters, while about 90 locals are staying at an evacuation centre.

"We've had 88 people stay with us overnight - mostly local people from various parts of flood-affected Rockhampton, but some of those are also travellers who have been stranded here," she said.

"We've just been going through the normal motions of the usual day. We think routine is a pretty important part of an evacuation centre."

Mayor Brad Carter says the flood crisis in the city and outlying areas is set to continue for weeks.

The Fitzroy River is expected to peak about 9.4 metres sometime tomorrow, inundating hundreds of homes and affecting thousands of properties.

The floodwaters have nowhere to go and hydrologist Peter Baddiley says they are likely to stay around that level for several days.

For the second day in a row, a RAAF cargo plane loaded with goods took off from Amberley, south-west of Brisbane, and landed in Mackay to Rockhampton's north.

Barges filled with food have been ferrying supplies from Gladstone and helicopter drops are also being made, while other supplies are being trucked in through the one highway in and out of the city.

New Zealand is sending a small emergency management team to help authorities deal with the disaster.

He says stranded travellers can still get prescriptions if they do not have their medication.

Overwhelming cost

The floodwaters are receding in some towns and regional areas, revealing the overwhelming cost to residents and farmers alike.

Insurance assessors have been on the ground for the first time in some places, including Bundaberg.

About 1,800 claims have been lodged already for flood damage.

The cost to the coal industry is estimated at $1 billion in lost production.

Much of the state's crops are waterlogged and ruined, with AgForce saying the cost to agriculture is also $1 billion.

In the state's southern inland, locals from the large cotton-growing community of St George are preparing for its second massive flood in a year.

The town's Balonne River may climb higher than 14 metres.

A temporary medical centre is open and residents have been building makeshift moats to protect their homes.

Emergency Management Queensland says there is no relief in sight to many flood-affected communities.