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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
April 8, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda:Thatcher, Transformative British Leader, Dies at 87

Margaret Thatcher, the UK's first female prime minister who served eleven years in the post, died of a stroke (Guardian) at the age of 87 after battling years of poor health. Thatcher, known as the "Iron Lady,"served as prime minister from 1979 to 1990, championing free-market economics (WSJ) and playing a crucial role as the Cold War ally of U.S. president Ronald Reagan during its confrontation with the Soviet Union. Thatcher was overthrown by an internal Tory party coup in 1990 after her promotion of a poll tax led to rioting in Trafalgar Square. "We've lost a great leader, a great prime minister and a great Briton," said British Prime Minster David Cameron (BBC).


"She transformed not just her own Conservative Party, but the whole of British politics. Her enthusiasm for privatisation launched a global revolution and her willingness to stand up to tyranny helped to bring an end to the Soviet Union. Winston Churchill won a war, but he never created an 'ism," writes the Economist.

"By the time Mrs Thatcher won her third mandate in June 1987 she was a world statesman, a go-between for her old friend Ronald Reagan with her new friend Mikhail Gorbachev, and with an eye to winning the Cold War. The part she played in urging Gorbachev into reforms, and into a more moderate attitude towards satellite states in the Soviet bloc, led to the fall of the Berlin wall in November 1989 and the collapse, almost like a house of cards, of the other Soviet bloc regimes over the next two years," writes Gordon Rayner of the Daily Telegraph.

"Her term in office saw thousands of ordinary voters gaining a stake in society, buying their council houses and eagerly snapping up shares in the newly privatised industries such as British Gas and BT. But her rejection of consensus politics made her a divisive figure and opposition to her policies and her style of government led eventually to rebellion inside her party and unrest on the streets," writes a BBC obituary.



China Warns Against Regional Instability

Chinese President Xi Jinping acknowledged that Asia faced "new challenges" to its stability (SCMP), saying no country should cause chaos in the region. Although Xi did not reference a particular country in his speech, the comments come as the region battles North Korea's increasingly bellicose behavior.

JAPAN: The Bank of Japan on Monday launched its 1.2 trillion yen bond-buying program as part of its new monetary easing (JapanTimes) program to pump money into the financial markets.

This CFR Backgrounder explains Abenomics and Japan's landmark bid to jolt its economy out of deflation.



NATO Strike Reportedly Kills Eleven Children

A NATO air strike reportedly killed at least eleven children (al-Jazeera) in Kunar province in eastern Afghanistan during a joint Afghan-NATO operation against Taliban fighters. Civilian deaths have been one of the most contentious issues in Afghanistan's eleven-year campaign against the Taliban.

PAKISTAN: Pakistan's supreme court summoned former president Pervez Musharraf (Dawn), who returned to Pakistan in late March, to stand for a treason case against him.



Religious Violence In Egypt Escalates

Clashes between Muslims and Christians escalated outside a Coptic Orthodox church in Cairo, raising the death toll (AP) from the religious violence to two, with eighty-nine injured. The clashes followed a funeral service for four Christians killed in sectarian violence the day before in El Khusus, an area north of Cairo, where one Muslim also died when members of both communities exchanged fire (BBC).

The latest round of six-party talks, aimed at ending Iran's nuclear program (Guardian), concluded in Kazakhstan without agreement. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said parties remained "far apart on substance" on the main issues of sanctions and enrichment.

CFR's Ray Takeyh discusses the best red line for a nuclear Iran in this op-ed.



Qatar Pledges $500M to Darfur

Qatar pledged $500 million in aid (al-Arabiya) to rebuild Sudan's war-ravaged western region of Darfur. The move marks further funding from the Gulf state after it promised to establish a bank with $1 billion in capital in February 2010 to develop the region.

SOUTH SUDAN: South Sudan has restarted oil production (BBC) more than a year after it was halted by disputes with neighboring Sudan, from which it formally split in 2011.



Portugal Faces Spending Cuts

Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho announced needed spending cuts (FT) on health, education, and social security to keep the country's 78 billion euro bailout program on track after Lisbon's constitutional court rejected austerity measures key to meeting deficit targets.

This CFR Backgrounder details the eurozone in crisis.

SERBIA: Despite Western pressure to reach a deal, Serbia said on Monday it will reject an EU-brokered plan for Kosovo (Reuters) in a decision that may delay EU accession talks.



Venezuelan Opposition Holds Rally in Caracas

Venezuelan opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles held a final rally in Caracas on Sunday, saying internal polling showed him gaining a growing lead over rival and interim president Nicolás Maduro a week before the national election (MiamiHerald).

BOLIVIA: Russian energy company Gazprom, aiming to tap into Bolivian natural gas (MercoPress), will buy a 20 percent stake in Total's gas fields in Bolivia, which has the third-largest gas reserves in Latin America.



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