World News Brief, Thursday March 29

Assad accepts peace plan to end crackdown as death toll hits 9000; Annan's diplomacy a convenient way out, but will it stick?; Australian government calls for criminal investigation into claims Rupert Murdoch's News Corp engaged in "high-tech piracy" in the 90s; damaged reactor at Fukushima Daiichi plant contains radiation up to 10 times the lethal dose; Iran nuclear talks could start in a fortnight; Cuba rejects Pope's call for reform; angry Greeks to vote for fringe parties in coming elections; and more

Top of the Agenda: Syria's Assad Accepts UN Cease-Fire Proposal

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accepted a six-point peace plan to end his regime's year-long crackdown (NYT) on anti-government protesters and opposition forces, said Kofi Annan, the joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria. The announcement came as Assad made a rare visit to Homs, an opposition stronghold that has sustained continued military attacks over the past months. But Assad's critics, including the United States, remained skeptical of his intentions. At the same time, Syrian soldiers targeted rebels taking cover along the border with Lebanon. Syrian activists claimed fifty-seven people were killed in clashes with government forces on Tuesday, while the UN estimated the total number killed in the conflict since last March to be more than 9,000.


"First, the diplomacy for which Annan is the point man is an agreed diplomacy, to which all the major powers, as well as the Arab League and Syria's neighbors, are committed. Since they have never managed to agree before, this fragile unity is in itself worth something. Second, if the conflict could be even partially and imperfectly demilitarised, that would be, given the terrible and continuing level of violence, a gain," says this Guardian editorial.

"Whether or not Annan's plan achieves a breakthrough remains to be seen. The Syrian leader has previously accepted deals in principle, only to cherry pick the elements he chooses to implement. Significantly, while Syrian state media focused on the president's tour of an area 'agonized by heavily armed terrorist groups which terrorized the inhabitants,' there was no mention of accepting Annan's plan," writes TIME's Rania Abouzeid.

"Russia and China, which have seen their standing in the region suffer from repeated vetoes in the Security Council, saw Annan's diplomatic overture as a way out of their isolation. And Western powers, reluctant to intervene militarily in Syria if diplomacy fails, are showing renewed interest in promoting a U.N. diplomatic effort to end the crisis," writes Colum Lynch for



Australia Calls for News Corp Criminal Investigation

The Australian government called for a criminal investigation (NYT) to probe claims published in a report by the Australian Financial Review asserting Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation had engaged in "high-tech piracy" to sabotage its competitors in the 1990s.

JAPAN: A damaged reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant contains radiation up to ten times the lethal dose (BBC), the Tokyo Electric Power Co. discovered. The finding could make it more difficult to decommission the plant, which was at the center of last year's nuclear crisis.

One year after the Fukushima nuclear crisis, Japan is facing a dilemma of how to clean up the disaster and how to meet current and future energy needs, says expert Charles D. Ferguson in this CFR Interview.



Iran nuclear talks could start in the fortnight

Cuba rejects Pope's call for reform, as Castro agrees to meet

Angry Greeks to vote for fringe parties in coming elections


This is an excerpt of the Daily News Brief. The full version is available on