World Digest: Oct. 8, 2013

October 8, 2013
TURKEY
Decades-old ban on Islamic scarf is lifted

Turkey on Tuesday lifted a ban on women wearing the Islamic head scarf in state institutions, ending the restriction as part of a package of measures that the government says will advance democracy.

The ban, whose roots date back almost 90 years to the early days of the Turkish republic, has kept many women from joining the public workforce, but secularists see its abolition as evidence of the government pushing an Islamic agenda.

The new rules, which will not apply to the judiciary or the military, will take immediate effect in the majority-Muslim but constitutionally secular country.

“A dark period is coming to an end,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a meeting of his Justice and Development Party.

Erdogan’s critics say his party is seeking to erode the secular foundations of the republic built on the ruins of an Ottoman theocracy by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923.

Supporters say Erdogan is simply redressing the balance and restoring freedom of religious expression.

— Reuters

INDONESIA
Kerry, Putin meet one-on-one at forum

Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Russian President Vladimir Putin met for 15 minutes Tuesday on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Bali, Indonesia, focusing mostly on the crisis in Syria, a senior State Department official said.

Kerry is leading the U.S. delegation to APEC, after the federal government shutdown prompted President Obama to cancel his plans to attend. On Monday, Putin said he understood Obama’s decision.

“It’s a difficult situation, and I think that the fact that the president of the United States did not come is justifiable,” Putin told an audience of global business executives. “If I were him, I wouldn’t have come probably, either.”

Putin at first appeared to smirk when an American audience member asked what he thought of Obama’s absence. But his answer turned out to be a thoughtful reminder to other nations at the forum of their stake in the impasse in Washington.

“We are all interested in the United States overcoming this crisis,” Putin said.

— Anne Gearan

Chinese police reportedly fire on Tibetan protesters: The ­London-based rights group Free Tibet said Tuesday that about 60 people were injured when Chinese security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas into a crowd of Tibetan residents who were demanding the release of a fellow villager detained for protesting orders to display the Chinese flag to commemorate National Day on Oct. 1. The U.S.-backed broadcaster Radio Free Asia also said that dozens were injured in the incident in the Tibet Autonomous Region, citing unidentified local and exiled Tibetan sources.

U.S. shutdown slows aid to families of troops killed in Afghanistan: For the families of four U.S. soldiers killed by insurgents in southern Afghanistan’s Zhari district Sunday, the partial U.S. government shutdown will take a particularly personal toll. The Pentagon says it is not allowed to pay those families the normal $100,000 tax-free “death gratuity” as long as the shutdown continues. The same goes for the family of a Marine who died in Afghanistan on Saturday and any others who die during the budget impasse.

More inspectors bound for ­Syria: The chief of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said a second team of inspectors is being sent to Syria to expand the watchdog’s high-stakes, high-risk mission to rid Syria of its poison gas stockpile. At the start of a four-day meeting in The Hague, Ahmet Uzumcu called Syrian cooperation with the initial team last week “a constructive beginning for what will nonetheless be a long and difficult process,” according to an OPCW statement.

Britain, Iran working to mend ties, official says: Britain and Iran have started talks aimed at restoring diplomatic relations two years after a mob ransacked the British Embassy, Foreign Secretary William Hague said, citing what he called a “marked change” for the better since Hassan Rouhani was elected president in June. Hague told Parliament that both countries would appoint “a nonresident charge d’affaires” in the interim.

Remains of Costa Concordia victim found: Divers searching the submerged wreck of the Costa Concordia cruise ship have located the remains of one of the two people still missing from the January 2012 disaster, officials said, saying they are thought to be those of Russel Rebello, an Indian waiter. Thirty-two people died when the Concordia struck a reef off the Tuscan island of Giglio and capsized, but the bodies of Rebello and an Italian woman were not recovered.

— From news services

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