27/03/2012 World News Today


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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


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