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This is BBC World News Today with me, Tim Willcox. Is Syria's
leadership really ready to talk? As President Assad tours areas in Homs,
until recently the heart of the rebellion, his government says it
accepts the Kofi Annan peace plan. The Syrian government has now
written to the Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan accepting his six point
plan. Mr Annan has written to President Assad urging the Syrian
government to put its commitments into immediate effect.
The disputed oil rich border between South Sudan and its
northern neighbour sees fierce clashes once again.
Biology's new frontier - making DNA from scratch to change the world.
We look at the revolutionary steps taking place in science.
Also coming up in the programme: Following in his predecessor's
footsteps - Pope and president set to meet in Havana, but many
Catholic Cubans question what role the church should be playing in the
And recognising a rock god and pop history in a quiet London side
Hello and welcome. After a year of bloodshed in Syria that the UN
thinks has now claimed as many as 9,000 lives, Kofi Annan's
announcement that Damascus has accepted his peace plan may be
treated with scepticism by many. His comments coincided with
President Assad making a rare foray into Homs, the former heartland of
the rebellion, and a meeting of the The Syrian President a-share our
asset apparently visiting the Baba Amr and area of Homs. This, for the
first time since military forces besieged the area, killing hundreds
and forcing rebel fighters to withdraw. But elsewhere in Homs,
the battle appears far from over. This video, which has not been
independently verified, allegedly showing a neighbourhood still been
shelled by government forces. Here and across many parts of Syria,
people continue to die every day. But now at least beat efforts of
veteran diplomats Kofi Annan seemed to be working. He secured the
support of the Chinese as well as the Russians for his peace plan.
And today he also announced that the Syrian government itself had
agreed to his initiative. I have received a response from the Syrian
government and will be making it public today. This is positive.
end the bloodshed of the past year, At a meeting in Turkey today,
Syrian opposition activists were sceptical about the government
fulfilling their side. We are very cautious when we see that the
regime is accepting anything. We want to see that implemented on the
ground and compliance by the regime is something that we need to see
happen. This, the reason many are so cautious about the deal. Yet
another badly injured child been brought to a field hospital in Homs.
According to the latest figures from the UN, more than 9,000 people
have been killed so far, most of them civilians. Syrian opposition
groups have held two days of talks. Let us join our correspondent there.
There was a walkout from a well known Syrian dissident. How United
are they? It is as desperate as Syria is. When the council was
established six months ago, it was supposed to be an umbrella group.
It has never been as coherent as the transitional government in
Libya. They are disagreeing about everything. There has been a
walkout as well by a Kurdish group. They are a significant part of the
population and one their efforts to be recognised. There are a lot of
people here there. There are delegates from every possible
ideological background. They are talking and at least a green on
their goals. They also agree that they do not believe for one moment
that President Assad can meet the Kofi Annan plan. I asked them if
they were willing to speak to President Assad and they said we
probably won't get there. They do not believe he will take his strips
off the street. For all that, the fact that President Assad has
accepted the plan does cause some difficulties. They are talking
about getting more international support and now they have to shift
diplomacy which will be hard for some of them. Where do we stand now
regarding a potential buffer zone within Syria along the border with
Turkey? It is not going to happen yet. It has been talked about by
Turkish politicians, immensely frustrated by the bloodshed in
Syria. There is nothing they can do. The buffer zone is there as an
option only if there is a massive influx of Syrians. It is not going
to happen yet and the fact is that Kofi Annan's plan shifts the focus.
The Russians and Chinese support it and the international community
cannot agree on any other action. I think people need to give diplomacy
a chance and for the opposition that mean sitting back and
accepting the bloodshed they have gone through. The bitter pill is
joining the diplomatic process that does not guarantee President Assad
it will leave power at the end of Rafik Abdessalem is Tunisia's
Foreign Minister. I asked him how optimistic the world should be
about the pledge from Damascus. Personally, I am pessimistic, but
let us hope things going the right direction. It all depends on the
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He needs to listen to the demands
of his people. If he does listen to the demands for more democracy,
freedom, things might go up in the right direction. To ask for a
system to be changed that has been in place for many years will be
difficult. The Syrian opposition is not united. How much of a factor
will that be? Will they be greeted even sit down to direct talks?
this is one of the difficulties of the Syrian crisis. There is a
political polarisation. If we have a common voice that comes from the
Syrian opposition, the balance of power what will be in favour of the
political change. Let us hope that the Syrian opposition overcome this
internal division. You have been in post for three months. The
international community is welcoming you, but if he were asked
about the situation in Syria, what would your advice be to the
international community about what to do with that situation? I think
to support the legitimate demands of the Syrian people, to have peace
for political change, not to move towards any militarisation of the
conflict. There was a militarisation of the conflict in
Libya and that was the deciding factor. Do you still said that is
the wrong direction to go as far as there is concern? Yes. The main
problem in Syria is the Bashar al- Assad regime. The situation in
Libya was different. In Syria we have a religious and sectarian
division. The Assads had been power for 40 years. Come the end of their
regime, what problems will be encountered? It depends on the
movement of the political parties in Syria. If they can control the
situation, help the country come back to normality of, -- normality,
it would be a good thing. It in the immediate short-term, you are not
optimistic of a quick solution? Unfortunately, I am not.
Now a look at some of the day's other news.
President Nicolas Sarkozy has urged TV networks not to broadcast
violent videos filmed by the Mohamed Merah during his fatal
attacks in Toulouse. A USB stick containing the footage was sent to
Al Jazeera. They have decided not to broadcast the images. The
families of the victims have also called for the footage not to be
shown. World leaders have vowed to take
strong action against nuclear terrorism at the end of a summit in
South Korea. The 53 leaders said the threat was one of the most
challenging facing the world today. The summit comes at a time of
growing international concern over the nuclear programmes of both Iran
and North Korea. The operators of an oil platform
off the coast of Scotland say it could take at least six months for
them to stop a gas leak there. The oil company Total says its looking
at several options to try to stem the leak at the Elgin platform,
including drilling a relief well. There's now a three kilometre
exclusion zone around the rig, with over 300 workers evacuated.
Fighting on the disputed oil-rich border region between South Sudan
and Sudan has continued for a second day. The South says clashes
have taken place on the ground while its northern neighbour has
bombed its positions. The clashes appear to be centred on disputed
towns close to the border. Authorities in Khartoum say a visit
to the South by Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir has been cancelled,
but could be re-scheduled if lower One official from an well company
said a bomb landed within the oilfields near one of his team
sites. That claim has been denied. Secondly, salsa band's military
spokesman says there is fighting going on on the ground there are a
major oil field. I have not been able to confirm that, but it is
clear the situation between these two countries are deteriorating.
Both except there were clashes along the disputed border on Monday.
Sudanese officials Arnaud saying that the President will travel, but
if political and military progress is made the summit could be pushed
back to a later date. At the moment, things are looking pretty bleak.
Gill Lusk is editor of Africa confidential. It looks like the
most serious confrontation since independence. What do mecca the
timing? It does look serious. The timing, this war has been building
up for some time. The fighting did not just been -- begin yesterday
morning, although that is when the Sudan army bombed into the oil
fields in southern Sudan. Do you think there is some power play
going on in Khartoum itself and that the Shia is under pressure?
The it is about power, but more broadly it is about the sudden
government. They are saying they are not going to be pushed around.
This is the feeling you get in southern Sudan and in the north, it
is about the Government trying to hold on to power work because they
are a deeply unpopular government and as well as the war with the
south, there is a war against Northern armed opposition. That is
what most of the fighting has been about recently. Obviously, this is
an area that is oil-rich. But countries depend on each other in
terms of pipe mines, or production and the economy. Is it all about
whale, or are there many other factors? Many other factors. It is
about power. Khartoum is trying to divert attention from its own
problems in the north and it is doing this by having a war with the
South. It has always used to war as a political weapon since it took
power. In the south it is about asserting their sovereignty. Both
countries accuse each other of supporting armed militia. What
evidence is there to support that? There is plenty of evidence that
Khartoum was supporting it militia. They have used proxy forces for
many years. The sudden government is supporting the northern rebels,
yes, but that tends a hide the fact that it is really an internal more
than problem here going on. The Some say it could be the spark that
ignites the next industrial revolution. Others say it is
meddling with nature. Either way, it is one of Britain's research
priorities. It involves producing artificial DNA to make things such
as medicines, fuels and materials. Imagine the power to design new
forms of life, to dream up new versions of the genes inside every
living thing on earth and create organisms that have never before
existed. That is what is happening here in this lab in Imperial
College in London. The researchers are not just studying life, the are
reshaping it. This is synthetic biology's. It is an emerging
science which could transform the industry and medicine and science.
It is clear that these techniques can be applied across a wide range
of different fields, from health care through due energy and
agriculture. What is synthetic biology? The starting point is
something that has been around for years, genetic modification. There
is the bundle of genes inside the cell. The modified them by splicing
in DNA from another organism. What they're doing now goes much further.
It relies on the fact that DNA is a coat for life, made up of just four
basic building-blocks represented here by these four letters. As with
any Engineering progress, these components have to be re- Eddie --
rearranged to design new genes. The scientists take these for building
clock's -- these for building blocks to create their own version
of synthetic, man-made DNA. The final stages the most extraordinary.
They take a cell with all of its own original DNA stripped out and
insert the synthetic DNA, getting the organism to do whatever they
want, taking control of nature. What can this do? The fight against
malaria, carried by mosquitoes, will see a vaccine made with
synthetic biology later this year. Algae with synthetic genes could
make fuel. We could be driving with the stuff in years ahead. New crops
may cope with drought and disease to feed a world of 7 billion. It is
one of countless ideas. We are here today to announce the first
synthetic cell. Two years ago, an American scientist announced the
first living thing with synthetic DNA. Are we ready for such a
fundamental step? These advances are exciting but terrifying. The
offer the possibility of creating new life forms that will deal with
many of the world's greatest problems, but it will create life
forms in the human immune system and the world - or -- in that the
human immune system and the world which we have not experienced.
There are more worried about this new research. Scientists say they
are doing everything safely. It we are working within the design phase
about how we can develop kill switches, little method and --
little mechanisms whereby the organism would kill itself. These
would ensure that the organism will not interfere with the natural
world. We do not one that to happen. A it was only 60 years ago that
scientists discovered how genes work as the court for life. Now,
they're taking charge. We're on the brink of a new Europe and the
public debate about it has only just begun. -- and U E Rush.
Pope Benedict has arrived in the Cuban capital of Havana. He is due
to meet the President later. Earlier, he prayed for detained
Cubans during a visit to them country's most important Catholic
shrine, Our Lady of Charity in the east of Cuba. He urged students to
build anew and open society during a mass in the eastern city of
Santiago de Cuba. Cuba was officially atheist until 1992.
Since then, the Catholic Church has been slowly reviving the state.
Some accuse it of focusing so much and that that it is failing to
speak out on Schumann right. -- on human rights. For four decades, a
vast statue of Christ towered over atheist Cuba. It was not removed
during the revolution, but this is a secular country now. The Catholic
Church is busy reasserting itself. This is a Breakfast Club for
schoolchildren and a poor neighbourhood of Havana. But is one
of dozens of church project in a country where so much is controlled
by the state. We are not trying to compete with the government, Oscar
tells me. We're just here to help. There are other signs of a church
revival. I went to visit a smart new seminary just outside Havana as
the first church building permitted in Cuba since the revolution, when
religious schools were taken over and many priests fled. Now, 52
young men are preparing for the priesthood here. They're trying to
cut Cubas dependence on clergy from abroad. When the seminary was
inaugurated in 2010, President Castro was invited to the ceremony.
It was a powerful symbol of the new relationship between the Catholic
Church and his communist state. There are some who wonder whether
the churches using that relationship as it should. Every
Sunday, after Mass, the ladies in white march in a silent protest for
human rights. It began when their husbands were imprisoned for their
political views. The men were released in 2010, after Cuba's
Cardinal intervened. The women are still marching. Last week, dozens
were detained by police. Tudor says they are paid by America to
undermine the revolution. The women say detention and harassment of
dissidence is a rising. -- is rising. The government told us,
you're not allowed to go to Mass with the Pope. The Catholic Church
has at social doctrine to which protects the marginalised and the
suffering, but the cardinal a silent about the atrocities the --
the adduces the picture the Government is committed against the
people. Quiet diplomacy has brought result in the past and allowed
social work like this to continue. The Church will not be our flag of
justice. No. Our role is a different one. We're not here for
defending human rights, we are here to preach the gospel of Jesus
Christ, that will be clear. right to worship is free, at least.
He can be Catholic and Communist in Cuba. The result is a stronger
church, growing slowly, but after so many years of being barely
tolerated, it is still cautious that it is not entirely secure.
If you know London, you will be familiar with the blue plaques that
tell you about special historical significance of things around you.
A different kind of plaque has been unveiled today, marking the site
for one of Rock's iconic images was taken. 40 years ago, David Bowie
appeared on television looking like this. For some, it really did board
their minds. They are bomb was The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and
the Spiders From Mars, and for one young fan, this image was a turning
point. Today, Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet is back in the place where
that photograph was taken. Where exactly is this? A it is right here.
The sign was up there? I think what made Ziggy Stardust will protest --
supported at the time was that it was coming out of a London much
darker and more impoverished than the recession we are suffering now.
As a working-class child, Ziggy Stardust offered an escape from
their every day which was quite grand an exciting and certainly out
reached my parents. 40 years on, it looks different around here. Very
shrubbery in the way, the rubbish is gone, and that lamp is very
different made a place was a the Stardust -- very definitely the
place was at the Stardust first appeared. Watching on were two
members of the original band. In 1972, Woody, the drummer, looked a
bit different. It took a bit of coaxing to get them into the outfit.
He said, someone has to wear pink. He said, you have to be a man to
wear pink! I went, OK, then. Even the man on the stage is entering
into the spirits. By what may not look like the grim backstreet on
the cover, it is part of rock history. The police were David
Bowie stepped out one wintry January evening, and it -- and
Ziggy Stardust came to earth. You have got to be a man to wear pink!
David Bowie has such power, doesn't he? A spokesman for Kofi Annan says
Syria has accepted his six-point plan for ending violence in the
country. It calls for a un monitored end to the fighting and
improved humanitarian access. The US State Department says it would
be an important step if backed up with action. Here is President
Assad and visiting the former rebel stronghold in in the city. He said
a better city would rise from the destruction. Next, the weather.
It has been another day of record- breaking temperatures across
Scotland, but after all of that warmth, it turns quite chilly
tomorrow morning. Things will warm- up as we see the return of the
sunshine, doing it all over it again tomorrow. It is keeping
things dry. We have high levels of pollen. It will cloud over across
northern Scotland with some hazy sunshine. Elsewhere, no is lit up
with sunny skies. It will be higher temperatures in the south-east
corner. It will be cooler on the coast. We have lost at risk wind.
We could see temperatures rising. In Wales, it will be fine and dry
with more sunshine in the afternoon. It may be cooler in the north coast