05/07/2011 GMT with George Alagiah


George Alagiah presents international news and intelligent analysis going live to the heart of the day's top global story. Plus up-to-the-minute global business news.

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Britain confirms plans to step back from combat duties in Afghanistan.


David Cameron says he is confident that the country will be able to


look after its own security by the end of 2014. As we see a stronger


and more confident national Afghan army, stronger Afghan police, many


of whom we have trained ourselves, and also the Afghan local police, I


do believe it is right to start planning the withdrawal of some of


Welcome to GMT. Also in the programme: He's back and in


fighting spirit. The Venezuelan President makes a surprise return


from Cuba following treatment for cancer.


And a cultural taste of a changing world. 100 artists descend on


London this month as part of a new Well, it is 12.30 in London, 7:30am


in Washington and 4pm in Afghanistan, where NATO has


confirmed the death of another four soldiers. There were killed in the


east of the country, where foreign troops, mostly American, are


battling a fierce Taliban insurgency. Despite this and


previous losses, both American and British leaders do believe that the


tide is turning against the Taliban. On a visit to Afghanistan today,


the Prime Minister David Cameron has confirmed that he is planning


to withdraw more combat troops in David Cameron's latest visit to


Afghanistan comes at a critical time. There is talk of a new phase


as plans are advanced to withdraw some forces. Yesterday, Mr Cameron


met both British and American troops and Helmand province. But


the death on the same day of a British soldier underlined how


dangerous the situation still is. In Kabul today, with President


Hamid Karzai, Mr Cameron said he was confident that, overall, things


were on track. I do believe it is right, as we build up the Afghan


national security forces, as we see a stronger and more confident


national Afghan army, stronger Afghan police, many of whom we have


trained ourselves, and also the local police, I do believe it is


right to start planning the withdrawal of some of our troops.


We start with 9500. There are about 426 coming home this year. I will


be making an announcement in the House of Commons tomorrow about a


modest reduction that will take place next year. The Afghan


President said that his people had to take charge of their own


security. This, of course, does not mean that there should be a sudden,


immediate end to the systems to Afghanistan. Or to co-operation


between Afghanistan and its allies, like the United Kingdom. But a


process in which Afghanistan increasingly becomes in charge of


its own affairs, all of its affairs, and where, increasingly, we are no


longer a burden on our allies. Increasingly, time lines are being


set. British combat operations in Afghanistan will finish by the end


of 2014. But David Cameron says there will be a long-term


relationship to build the country, based around trade, diplomacy and


Well, Quentin Sommerville is live with us from Kabul. Let's speak to


him now. First things first, the Prime Minister is talking about a


radical reduction in the threat from the Taliban, from terrorists.


Is the evidence in Afghanistan backing that claim? In some areas,


yes. Down in the south, in the provinces of Helmand and Kandahar,


when we visited there, it is certainly a lot less violent than


it has been in the past. The security situation seems to be


improving and we are seeing more and more Afghan troops on the


ground. When you speak to commanders, they say it is because


of the surge, the extra troops that flooded into Afghanistan,


principally from the United States. That has made a big difference.


When David Cameron and President Obama start talking about drawing


down their troops, are the Afghan security forces ready to step in


and are they able to do the job to the same level that their


international allies have been doing, in terms of keeping the


Taliban away? The Afghan people want foreign troops to leave. In


many cases, they are holding their breath to see if they themselves


will be able to keep the Taliban at bay. America and the UK have always


emphasised a legacy for their work in Afghanistan. Now they have


announced a training base for the Afghan army. Tell us how that will


work. That's right, it's going to be a Sandhurst College, the top


military college in the UK, there will be a fishing in Afghanistan to


help teach the future leaders of the Afghan security forces. We also


have an indication from the Prime Minister, from David Cameron, that


there will be continuing support in terms of international aid to


Afghanistan, that Britain would not weaken in that. I have to say,


Britain is going to be standing pretty much alone in that. Many


countries will significantly pull back their aid commitment,


particularly the United States, after troops finished their combat


operations at the end of 2014. Quentin Sommerville, live from


Kabul. Now, let's look at some of the other stories making headlines


around the world today. We begin in Iraq, where two explosions have


killed more than 30 people in the town of Taji, north of the capital


Baghdad. Officials say the blast happened almost simultaneously at a


government building that issues identity cards. One official said


that the first explosion was a car bomb and the building was full of


people. David Cameron says that claims that


a private investigator working for the News of the World newspaper


hacked into the phone of a murdered teenager, Milly Dowler, are


shocking. Executives from News International, the company owned by


Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, are due to meet police shortly to


discuss the allegations. A court in the Netherlands has


ruled that the Dutch state was responsible for the deaths of three


Muslim men in 1995 after dish -- the fall of Srebrenica. The men


were handed to Bosnian Serb forces by Dutch UN troops.


A shipment or fenugreek seeds from Egypt is the most likely source of


the E.coli epidemic to sweep Europe, according to the European Food


Safety Authority. All and 4000 people in Europe and North America


have been infected by outbreaks so far. The infection has killed more


than 50 people in Germany and there has been one death in America,


France and Sweden. In Japan, the Minister for


Reconstruction has resigned after just a week in the job. Ryu


Matsumoto was criticised for offending victims of the disaster


when he said that communities would not receive help unless they came


Well, police in the state of New South Wales will have the power to


demand the removal of burkas and other face coverings to identify


people suspected of committing crimes. The law has been changed in


reaction to a high profile Sydney case involving a Muslim woman and a


police officer during a routine traffic stop. Refusing to comply


with the new rule could lead to up The very public battle over


allegations that a woman falsely accused a policeman of ripping off


her veil has seen the Government close what police regarded as a


legal loophole. I think it's a victory for commonsense and police


on the front line. Soon, anyone who has their face covered must reveal


it if an officer tells them to. Otherwise they risk a hefty $5,500


fine or a year in jail. I think it's wrong, each to their own. Why


should they have to show themselves to people? They should follow the


law. It doesn't matter if you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim...


woman came to Australia almost 20 years ago and has always covered


her face. We think in Islam that ladies are really, really precious.


But she says she is not above the law. The ABC has spoken to several


women who would wear the niqab or the burka. They say they are


comfortable with the new laws, but they prefer to show their face to a


female police officer. The Australian-Muslim Women's


Association says a sensitive balance needs to be struck. It's a


matter of how each party handles themselves from hereon in. The


Muslim community complying and reasonably requesting a female


police officer and the police force acting in a reasonable manner


without any force or coercion, in a respectful way. There are only a


limited amount of police to police each area.


Islamic groups say it will come down to a matter of trust. There


has to be a lot of engagement with people from the Muslim community,


especially the women. Other states will be watching how New South


Now, tomorrow Venezuela will mark the 200 anniversary of the


independence from Spain. The man he would expect to be at the centre of


the celebrations will not be attending. Hugo Chavez says he will


watch from the presidential palace, as he is still too unwell to attend.


His recent treatment for cancer did not stop him from addressing


thousands of supporters in Caracas. He told them that their backing was


the best medicine for whatever illness. Despite the performance,


many questions remain about his ill-health and its implications.


Let's talk to Michael Reid, the American's editor for the Economist


magazine. He joins us from central London. The message from Hugo


Chavez has been, I am still in charge, the show still goes on. Is


that realistic? Well, that has very much been the message. There are


many things that the Venezuelan people, and we don't know about his


medical complex -- condition. We don't know how advanced the cancer


was, what kind of cancer it was, what kind of treatment he will


require over the next three months. It's reasonable to assume that he


will need chemotherapy. It's reasonable to assume that he will


not be restored to vigorous good health for some weeks or months.


That does raise some questions about what will happen in Venezuela


in the next period. We know from various reports that there has been


some jockeying for position amongst his allies, just in case he has to


step aside for a few months and they need someone to take over.


Isn't the point here that with Chavez it is personal, without him,


what he is driving forward in Venezuela is it possible? That's


absolutely right. It's a highly personal EST regime. It's been all


about President Chavez. The reason he suddenly came back from Cuba was


precisely because there were signs that jockeying for power was


breaking out within the ranks of his supporters. It's in the nature


of these regimes that no successor, there is no heir, there is no


designated successor. He also faces a crucial presidential election


next year. So, I think he wanted to make sure that the battle for power


within his organisation didn't get out of hand. What about the


opposition? Where does a poorly Hugo Chavez leave them? Well, they


already had quite a good chance of winning next year's presidential


election. One assumes that, depending on what happens, and he


may well make a full recovery and be just as vigorous and active as


he was before, but there has to be some doubt about that. Clearly,


that doubt gives them a bigger opportunity, provided they stay


together. The historic failure of the a Venezuelan opposition has


been a failure to unite. They need to pick a plausible presidential


candidate and unite behind that candidate. Then they will be in


with quite a strong chance. Good to speak to you, thank you very much


indeed. Michael Reid from the Economist.


We have some extraordinary pictures from China. Chinese emergency


services on Monday, staging a dramatic rescue of dozens of people


that was stranded on a bridge which had collapsed under the force of


surging floodwaters. This is all coming from a report by the state


broadcaster, CCTV. The floods were triggered by days of heavy rain,


the rain brought down the bridge in Sichuan province. As you can see,


they were improvising with all sorts of different techniques to


try and get people to safety. There, they are using a rope. In a moment


we will also see a huge crane being used as well. The fear was that the


cables would break. They were not particularly secure. The good news


is that they didn't. The standard workers eventually fetched a crane


from their plant and they successfully used it to lift


colleagues to safety. Absolutely extraordinary. The county where


this is taking place was the epicentre of a massive earthquake


two years ago which claimed almost Still to come, we are going to talk


about a new festival of Arab art in London. Also, there has been


outrage at Indy as the country's health minister Brian's


homosexuality a disease. -- in Now Aaron is here with the business.


We have spent so much time talking about the Greeks and their debt.


You're going to be talk about the Americans. Yes unthinkable that we


could be asking who defaults first - Greece or the United States? But


the potential is there. The United States has four weeks until it runs


out of money and has a debt of $14.3 trillion and Barack Obama is


urging them to raise the debt ceiling. Here is the problem.


Republicans are at loggerheads with democrats. They say we want


spending times. The democrats say hang on, we want to raise taxes on


the rich to help pay off the debt. But whatever the outcome, if they


don't do something soon, the US defaulting is possible. Listen to


this. It has potential to be catastrophic for the US markets and


it would mean the US has to pay higher interest rates and it would


I think really be a something that the US taxpayers would get upset


about. Everyone is saying a deal will be agreed. But there is a lot


of ground to cover. I was mentioning the Greeks, when they


get a bailout, the Germans pay more and now somebody has taken this to


the courts. Yes we have known for some time the Germans dislike these


Irish and Greek rescue pots. You have said it, let's not kid


ourselves, the Germans are the pay master in the eurozone and today


the constitutional court in Germany will listen to complaints brought


by Markus Kerber who says the money is unconstitutional, because they


were organised by the European Commission and the central bank and


not by German Parliament. Here is the man himself. Parliament has an


obligation to control public funds and expenditure. They cannot give a


general authorisation to sovereign national agencies to... Spend money


for the sake of rescuing the euro or rescuing the stability of the


eurozone. There is is a man being seen as a man who will block the


bailout and it could throw the European Parliament in disarray.


That is the business for now. do remember you can get in touch


This is GMT. Our headlines: Laying out the long-term - the Prime


Minister visits Afghanistan as his forces begin the handover to local


security. And back home, Hugo Chavez returns from Cuba, following


Let's look at story that's rapidly becoming one of the most read


online. Ghulam Nabi Azad is India's Health Minister and yesterday he


told a conference on HIV-AIDS that homosexuality is a disease. He also


said it's more common in the developed world, but is spreading


fast in India. We can speak to our correspondent, Sanjoy Majumder. Has


he ever said these things before? Well he has not made comments on


homosexuality before. He has made other comments which haven't gone


down well. You can imagine the reaction these comments have got.


Particularly because of the timing and the venue. The fact that he was


making the comments at a conference which was aimed at preventing the


spread of HIV and AIDS. He made remarks that you have mentioned,


that homosexuality, he described as an unnatural act, alien to India


and brought by westerners and spreading. The gay community as


well as gay campaigners in India are outraged. Not just because of


the place he said this, but also the fact that they feel that apart


from being ignorant, this could feed into campaigners from


conservative groups from the religious right, who are opposed to


any attempt at legalising homosexuality. Put this in


contexted, homosexuality was decriminalised two years ago, is


that right? Yes, this is a community that is active in India


and two years ago the courts put out, struck down a law that dated


back to the 19th century, under which a homosexual act was a


criminal offence and you could be sent to ten years in prison that.


Ruling was welcomed and in the last couple of years, cities have


witnessed very large gay pride parades. But socially it is still,


same sex relationships are considered a taboo. The community


receives widespread discrimination and it is hard for them to carry


out a normal life and that is why they're upset. They say coming from


a minister, it almost seems as if it represents the Government's


point of view. It makes their life more difficult. Thank you. For most


of July London will play host to a new arts festival called Shubbak, a


Window on Contemporary Arab Culture. Around 100 Arab writers, actors,


artists, musicians and film-makers from around the world will be


showcasing their works. Two of them are joining me here. Ghulam Nabyi


Azad and Weal Shawky. -- - Is this necessary? Yes it is a good


opportunity to participate in such an event. I'm not sure if this is


really happening only now. Many institutions are already doing this


before. But maybe now it became the right time to focus on this. Both


of you are going to be exhibited your work. Let's look at a couple


of of the films you will be showing. Tell us more about it. These are


familiars that were part of the Dubai International Film Festival


and we are showing some of the winners in that festival. That


particular film is an interesting experimental film by a Palestinian


film maker based in Holland. The idea is to show case films, artists


and photographers who find it difficult in London's crowded


market and of course London is an important market, to be seen and to


be appreciated by audiences here. Arab and non-Arab alike. We can


pull up some of the images that people which see at your exhibits.


-- will see at your exhibits. Talk us through these. This is part of,


actually these are two different sew lows I have now in the UK. One


in Liverpool at the Walker gallery. Another one in London. Actually,


this is, yeah, so there is one of them that you have seen the image


of now. The question all of our viewers will want to ask, how are


the Arab uprising affecting Arab art? I think that objective


circumstances will affect what you think and feel and how you express


yourself. Of course how long this will take and what, I don't think


it is an automatic process, but it is a fascinating thing to watch.


This festival in particular will offer us a window as it says, to


appreciate some of the changes and the interesting things that this


new reality will take. What about you, there are plenty of protests


in Alexandria. It is already happening. Usually I'm sceptical


about these kind of events that says Arab or middle eastern Arab


art. But I think it is still a good opportunity to meet interesting


people, most of them are my friends. And also to make it more possible


for people that don't have that much access to art in general.


is the first time in London that we have a festival dedicated to the


whole region, special think contemporary output. That is


precious. The festival has arts is tick goals, does it have political


goals and are you saying come and support change? We don't organise


the festival. The mayor's office does. With reference to your work.


In terms of the UK, it is important, it is the first time we're looked


at as one culture. I think is debatable but it is interesting.


Secondly it is a secular approach and we're not just treats from a


religious point of view. And for the UK and London's Arab population


in particular, it is a great opportunity, and gives us


confidence to share and be part of the same city and it is wonderful.


Are you trying to make a political point, or just make art? I think


I'm just trying to make art in this case. But showing part of the peace


in lifplts was also showing something about -- in Liverpool was


showing something about how cultures see each other. Because


part of my work is about cliches and how people see the other


cultures and I think yeah, showing that, making a decision to show


part of it was part of this. Good to pleat you, thank you. Finally,


here's a man enjoying life at the moment - Novak Djokovic became


International news and intelligent analysis going live to the heart of the day's top global story. George Alagiah shares his experience as one of the BBC's most successful foreign correspondents to communicate why world stories matter to a UK and global audience.

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