Syrian university protests draw violent suppression
Pro-democracy protests in Syria spread for the first time to a university campus and were violently suppressed on Monday, a day after the government of President Bashar Assad acknowledged that it was using force against protesters.
The admission came in a statement from Syria’s Interior Ministry that was published Sunday by SANA, Syria’s official news agency.
Human rights advocates say nearly 200 protesters have been killed since demonstrations began against Assad’s authoritarian government in mid-March. Until the new statement, the Assad government had insisted that the deaths were caused by foreign infiltrators bent on destabilizing Syria.
“In recent weeks, groups of citizens gathered in demonstrations in several areas in Syria, particularly on Fridays, making a number of demands that were met with immediate response from the leadership,” the statement said.
Certain “spiteful individuals,” the statement continued, nevertheless burned government buildings, killed or wounded state security officers, and tried to sow distrust.
—Katherine Zoepf, The New York Times
Pakistan pushes for drastic cuts in CIA activities
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan has demanded that the United States steeply reduce the number of CIA operatives and Special Operations forces working in Pakistan, and that it put on hold CIA drone strikes aimed at militants in northwest Pakistan. The request was a sign of the near collapse of cooperation between the two testy allies.
Pakistani and U.S. officials said in interviews that the demand that the United States scale back its presence was the immediate fallout from the arrest in Pakistan of Raymond A. Davis, a CIA security officer who killed two men in January during what he said was an attempt to rob him.
In all, about 335 U.S. personnel — CIA officers and contractors and Special Operations forces — were being asked to leave the country, said a Pakistani official closely involved in the decision.
It was not clear how many CIA personnel that would leave behind; the total number in Pakistan has not been disclosed. But the cuts demanded by the Pakistanis amounted to 25 to 40 percent of U.S. Special Operations forces in the country, the officials said. The number also included the removal of all the U.S. contractors used by the CIA in Pakistan.
—Jane Perlez and Ismail Khan, The New York Times
Ninth circuit court rules against Arizona immigration law
PHOENIX — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled against the state of Arizona on Monday and let stand a lower court decision blocking the most contentious parts of the state’s immigration law from going into effect.
The decision calling the provisions unconstitutional was a victory for the Obama administration, which argued that the law interfered with the federal government’s authority over immigration. Two judges ruled against Arizona, and one partially dissented from them.
Last July, just days before the law was to take effect, Judge Susan Bolton of Federal District Court issued an injunction blocking parts of it. Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican who supports the crackdown on immigrants, filed an appeal seeking to have the injunction lifted.
After the appeals court rejected the state’s request Monday and issued a lengthy decision indicating that it believed the state had overstepped its authority, state Sen. Russell K. Pearce, a Republican who is the principal sponsor of the law, remained defiant, saying the issue would ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.
“This battle is a battle of epic proportions,” Pearce said in a statement suggesting he was not surprised by the ruling. “It is about a state’s right to enforce the laws of this land and protect its citizens from those who break our laws.”
—Marc Lacey, The New York Times
Italy lashes out at European Union over immigrants
ROME — Tensions rose between Italy and its EU partners on Monday over how to handle an influx of immigrants from North Africa, prompting the Italian interior minister to question the utility of the EU.
At a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday, EU interior ministers said they would not recognize the temporary permits that Italy had said it planned to issue to scores of immigrants who have arrived since January. The permits were intended to allow them free travel within Europe.
But Europe is divided over whether the permits would be valid in the entire visa-free Schengen area, which covers most of Western Europe, and on Monday, France and Germany rejected Italy’s plan.
“If this is the answer, it is better to be alone than in bad company,” Italy’s interior minister, Roberto Maroni, said. “I wonder if it makes sense to stay in the European Union.”
Maroni, who is a member of the Northern League, a party known for its strong anti-immigrant stance, has been vociferously critical of the EU, accusing it of “abandoning” Italy. But it would be highly unlikely for Italy to act on any such threat to leave the union.
On Monday, Maroni called the EU “an institution that acted immediately to save banks and declare war, but when it comes to give solidarity to a country in difficulty like Italy, it is nowhere to be found.”
Italy had been calling on its fellow EU members to help share the burden of receiving the more than 22,000 immigrants who have arrived in Italy since January, the majority of them “economic migrants” from Tunisia seeking work in France and elsewhere in Europe.
—Rachel Donadio, The New York Times