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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
April 24, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Italy Appoints New Prime Minister

Italian president Giorgio Napolitano appointed Enrico Letta (FT), the former deputy leader of the center-left Democrats, to lead Italy's next government in a broad coalition with Silvio Berlusconi's center-right party. The coalition (Reuters) is also likely to include ministers from a small centrist group headed by caretaker prime minister Mario Monti. Accepting the nomination with "reservation, (AnsaMed)" Letta listed unemployment and the economic crisis as top issues for the new government. His appointment ends two months of political deadlock after inconclusive national elections failed to usher any majority into parliament.


"A convinced pro-European who speaks excellent English and French – rare in Italian politics – Mr Letta was seldom seen as destined for high office. But in the context of the present crisis after two months of deadlock, he emerged as an anodyne and respected candidate acceptable to all sides in the new 'grand coalition,'" writes Guy Dinmore for the Financial Times.

"Mr. Letta was a surprise candidate. His name emerged as the leading contender only within the last 24 hours. His appointment is significant because, at 46, he is exceeding young by Italian political standards, a signal that Mr. Napolitano felt the need for youthful political rejuvenation," writes Eric Reguly for the Globe and Mail.

"The biggest winner looks like Berlusconi, who is now riding high, having overtaken the centre-left at the top of the opinion polls and projecting an image of statesmanlike restraint as Bersani's party falls apart. He has been calling for a broad based grand coalition for weeks," write Barry Moody and James Mackenzie for Reuters.



Dozens Dead in Western China

At least twenty-one people died on Tuesday in Xinjiang (NYT), a far western province of China, during fighting between security officers and what the government labeled as "gangsters" who had taken hostages. The death toll marks the highest in Xinjiang, an ethnically diverse area, in months.

ASEAN: ASEAN leaders gathered for its biannual summit (CNA) in Brunei, which is chairing the organization this year. Observers expect the South China Sea issue to top the agenda.

As the United States pivots to Asia, disputes over territories in the South China Sea have escalated tensions and threatened regional stability, writes this CFR Backgrounder.



Pakistan Faces Pre-Election Violence

At least eight blasts in three Pakistani provinces have killed eleven since Tuesday (Dawn), raising fears for the country's security situation as the May 11 polls draw near. Extremist militants took responsibility for some of the attacks.

BANGLADESH: An eight-story building housing several garment factories collapsed (AP) near Bangladesh's capital of Dhaka Wednesday morning, killing at least eighty-seven people.



Kerry Warns NATO Over Syria

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged NATO to prepare contingency plans for the possible use of chemical weapons (Hurriyet) by Syria, calling for members to boost their assistance to the opposition. Israel, France, and Britain have claimed that Damascus has already used such weapons.

BAHRAIN: Bahrain has indefinitely postponed a visit by Juan Mendez, UN special rapporteur on torture (BBC). The Gulf kingdom has been wracked by civil unrest for two years.



Sudanese Rebel Facing ICC Charges Killed

Saleh Mohammed Jerbo Jamus, a Sudanese rebel charged with war crimes (BBC) in Darfur by the International Criminal Court, was killed during fighting in North Darfur. He was due to stand trial in May 2014 over a deadly attack on African peacekeepers in Darfur in 2007.

KENYA: Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta unveiled four of his eighteen cabinet nominees (CapitalFM), picking UN diplomat Amina Mohamed as the next secretary for foreign affairs.



Portugal Announces Stimulus Program

Portugal unveiled an ambitious stimulus program (WSJ) on Tuesday to resuscitate its economy, aiming to cut the corporate tax rate, among other provisions.



Venezuela Calls On U.S. for Dialogue

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro named Calixto Ortega as new acting head of its U.S. diplomatic mission in Washington, and sent an offer of dialogue after criticizing the United States for "interference" over his election (MercoPress).

This CFR Issue Guide provides background and analysis on Sunday's election and the post-Chávez era.

UNITED STATES: Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told investigators that he and his older brother operated alone (LAT), planning the bombings a week or so before the race.

This CFR Issue Guide offers a list of resources analyzing the Boston Marathon bombings.



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