Top of the Morning: US Suspends North Korea Food Aid; Arab League Leadership Shift

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US Suspends Food Assistance to North Korea

That was fast. Just a few weeks ago North Korea said it would halt nuclear tests and let in IAEA inspectors. In response, the USA pledged to release 240,000 metric tons of food aid. Well, that deal now seems to be falling apart. “The United States says it has suspended a food aid package to North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s plans to carry out a missile launch next month. While the North says its plan to hurl the satellite into space is peaceful, the U.S. and other countries say the launch could help it further its ballistic missile technology.  Peter Lavoy, the acting assistant secretary of defense for Asia and Pacific security affairs, told a congressional hearing the U.S. is working together with allies in the region to try and discourage the North from going ahead with the launch because it would violate Pyongyang’s international commitments. He says that failure of North Korea to follow through on what it has promised raises concerns about the nutritional assistance the U.S. has offered as well.” (VOA http://bit.ly/GWTOkT)

Does Leadership Change at the Arab League mean a Softer Approach on Syria?

The Arab League Summit is ongoing in Baghdad. Syria is not there because they were booted from the League last year, under the watch of the Qataris, but they are dominating the agenda. The question is, with the Qataris exiting from the helm in favor of the Iraqis, will the League keep up its tough stance on the Assad regime?  “Anthony Skinner, director of Middle East analysis at the Maplecroft risk assessment firm, said the change of League chairmanship from Qatar to Iraq could possibly be a setback for efforts to force Assad to back down. “Qatar was previously chairing the Arab League. It was in a position of authority. But now, of course, this leadership role has transferred to Iraq. And from the perspective of Bashar al-Assad this is arguably a good thing. Al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq, has taken a much softer approach,” said Skinner. Still, the Arab League’s effort to play a major role in the Syria conflict reflects its new position in the wake of the Arab revolutions, and the arrival of its new secretary general Nabil al-Araby. (VOA http://bit.ly/GWS8I6)

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