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THE INDEX — December 7, 2009

Iranian authorities responded forcefully to student demonstrations at Tehran’s universities on Monday. Government troops, supported by the pro-Ahmadinejad Basij militia, fired warning shots into the air and beat thousands of opposition protesters with batons and tear gas in the largest clash between protesters and the state since this summer. The protests were organized by university students, who have been largely supportive of the opposition movement, especially after the disputed June 12 presidential election. The demonstrations were applauded by opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi, who claims he was denied the presidency because of government electoral fraud. The Basij militiamen have also sought to censor news coverage of the clashes by suspending journalists’ credentials, disrupting Internet connections, and shutting opposition websites. "Police have covered metal bars around Tehran University campus with white cloth to prevent passers-by from seeing inside," said one witness. More protests are planned for next Saturday. In a statement, Moussavi explained, “They are asking us to forget about the election results as though people are concerned only about the elections. How can we make them understand that this is not the issue? It is not about who the president is or is not. The issue is that they have sold out a great nation.” YouTube: Video footage of protests from Iranian opposition group The Iraqi parliament passed an election law late Sunday night required for national elections now scheduled for February 27 or 28. After the marathon emergency session in parliament, the vote was taken 10 minutes before the midnight deadline. The measure passed with help from intense background negotiations with senior American officials. Vice President al-Hashemi released a statement supporting the law, congratulating parliament for “their support,” and expressing “great happiness” that Iraqis at home and abroad are celebrating the passage. Parliament had earlier passed an election law on November 23 but Iraq’s Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi had vetoed that iteration because, he said, it failed to adequately address Iraqis living abroad, failed to provide opportunities for minority parties, and allocated seats according to disputed population data. The elections—now delayed from the constitutionally mandated deadline of late January—have some observers concerned that the new date sets a dangerous precedent, but most believe that taking the extra time to resolve outstanding issues will add legitimacy to the whole process. As a reminder of the ethnic and political violence that still plagues Iraq, a bomb in a Shia district of Baghdad killed seven school children and wounded 42 on Monday afternoon, and an unidentified gunmen shot dead five Sunni neighborhood guards in northern Baghdad Monday morning. But, according to U.S. government figures, the 88 Iraqi civilian casualties in November was the lowest since the March 2003 invasion. Romania's president appears headed for another term after Sunday's run-off election, but his opponent is alleging that the vote was marred by fraud after the vote was decided by an extremely slim margin. Traian Basescu, Romania's incumbent president, won 50.3 percent of the vote in the run-off, giving his opponent, Social Democratic leader Mircea Geoana 49.6 percent. Geoana was considered the favorite heading into the run-off and was even leading after the initial vote counts. The Social Democratic Party is charging that a large number of ballots were wrongfully annulled, but the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitored the election, said the second round of voting was generally fair. The country is mired in a recession and has been led by a caretaker government since October after the previous administration was ousted in a parliamentary no-confidence vote. International donors have postponed aid packages to the Central European country, including a $30 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, due to the uncertainty surrounding the government. Moscow and New Dehli strengthened ties after agreeing to further nuclear cooperation and ending a dispute over a Russian aircraft carrier India had purchased. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, visiting Moscow, said Russia would help India build four additional nuclear reactors to boost its current civilian nuclear energy sector. The aircraft carrier, which Russia is refurbishing, has been long delayed, but Russian president Dmitry Medvedev confirmed that it would soon be handed over to India. They also announced a program of enhanced economic ties, setting a trade target of $20 billion by 2015, which would focus on energy, information technology, communications, and pharmaceuticals. In a joint declaration, Russia also said it supports India's permanent membership to the United Nations Security Council. And during a joint news conference, Medvedev specifically cited Iran when talking about nuclear weapons falling into the hands of non-state actors or radical elements. "This touches on all countries," he said. "This touches, of course, upon the Iranian nuclear program." He also said he supported avoiding nuclear proliferation. "I'll say it openly: Moscow has no interest in expanding the nuclear club." In an attempt to crack down on the proliferation of violent, armed rebel groups in Central Africa, a group of 11 African nations released a statement today committing themselves to jointly cooperating with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in apprehending individuals suspected of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in the region. The announcement appears to signal a thaw in the relationships between the ICC and many of the governments in this area of Africa, whose leaders had joined the African Union to protest the indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in March 2009. (So far, all of the ICC’s cases have involved individuals who have committed crimes either in or bordering Central Africa’s Great Lakes region.) Interestingly, though, today’s announcement comes from a consortium of governments that includes Sudan, which is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that created the ICC, and has so far refused to cooperate with the court in its case against Bashir. What may be driving the consortium’s announcement is a new United Nations report (which has yet to be released) that details the far-reaching criminal networks that continue to proliferate within the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The report charges several governments, charities, and corporations in Central Africa, Europe, and East Asia with enabling Congo’s rebel groups—groups that have served as crucial links in the global trade of Congo’s conflict minerals.

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