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This is BBC World News Today with me, Philippa Thomas.
"An historic day", or "theatre written with the blood of Syrians"?
Syria goes to the polls - and for the first time in decades,
there's more than one name in the running for president.
The US steps up its commitment to Europe's defence -
announcing a one billion dollar fund to increase military
Also coming up - Fears about the spread of Ebola in West Africa, as
a British firm becomes the first to fly its people out of the region.
And how one US art collector helped to keep alive an African art
Hello and welcome. After 3 years of civil war,
tens of thousands killed, and millions displaced, presidential
elections are being held in Syria. Voting has been extended
in what officials have called a There is little doubt
President Assad will win For the first time
in decades though, there are other But Maher Hajjar
and Hassan al-Nouri are hardly known and critics say they've been unable
to campaign on anything like And large parts of Syria did not
take part in these elections. No votes were cast
in opposition-held areas seen here Quite a contrast to the government
controlled parts of the country seen here in red, where officials set up
more than 9,000 polling stations. The BBC's Middle East Editor,
Jeremy Bowen, has this report. There's a serve decorated some of
the buses the water company used to bring workers to this polling
station in Damascus. -- posters. If anybody supported anyone else they
were keeping quiet. Everyone I spoke to said they would be voting for the
head of the family that has run Syria for more than 40 years. This
man scratched his bum so he could fold in blood. He was not the only
one doing it. For the first time in more than 50 years there was a
choice in the presidential election. Proof, according to officials, that
this was real democracy. She said how happy she was to be voting for
President Assad. But the election has been denounced as a sham by
opponents abroad. Britain called it a parody of democracy. For all the
savage criticism of this election it is important to remember that
President Assad does have genuine support. Some of them have started
chanting outside. He would not have got to where he has been without
that kind of support. As far as he is concerned, this is good politics.
President Assad is certain to win the vote. He cast his ballot with
his wife, who grew up in London. In the parts of Syria are controlled by
rebels the election has been ridiculed as much as condemned. This
artist painted rubbish skips to look like ballot boxes. There is no
voting in rebel held areas. Back in Damascus, this is a former minister,
one of the rival candidates. Before the vote he said his own family had
found the campaign was fear by Syrian standards but not, as he put
it, from all points of view. One single person who believes in me
would not have the guts to put a poster of me signing his name. Even
your relatives might be scared to put up posters? Not scared,
reluctant. They are reluctant because they never believed there
would be an election in Syria and suddenly they have three candidates
competing for the president of the Syrian republic. Look at this big
change. Thousands of his posters have been up in Damascus. Questions
about the future have always been parried with, it is up to the Syrian
people. Whatever his opponents say about this controversial election,
once his victory is announced he can tell them he has a new seven-year
mandate. Joining me now from Westminster is the Conservative MP
Brooks Newmark. Welcome. Let us assume that President Assad wins,
how should the UK and the US react? I think there should be no change at
all. Everybody recognises that this election is a complete farce, he has
found useful idiots who have been preapproved. There was a process in
Geneva which was about a transition. This throws that out. President
Assad is responsible for butchering and gassing and torturing a of his
own people. -- 150,000. This is one of the worst managerial crisis --
humanitarian crises in history. The election has no bearing on reality.
What should the West do given they don't want to inflict military
strikes on the regime and given Russia is in little mood to
cooperate? I think we need to put as much pressure on President Assad as
possible, and that means providing genuine support for the Free Syrian
Army and coalition, who represent the moderate majority of Syrians. At
the moment what we've got is a bunch of terrorists on one side in the
form of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, doing the fighting
effectively for President Assad, and then on the other extreme side we
have those fighting in the north-east, and copper in the middle
of it is the vast majority of Syrians. -- trapped in the middle.
Instead of supporting the moderate majority we are letting the
radicals, the terrorists, if you will, who did not exist in Syria two
years ago, gets stronger and stronger. We need to bolster the
moderate majority and that is what they must do. You think your
government is minded to do that? I mean, certainly, there is an
appetite. People are recognising that because we're not supporting
the moderate majority, there are about 15,000 terrorists. Where they
did not exist two years ago they are growing and growing because we are
not arming sufficiently the moderate majority. The only way to bring him
to the negotiating table is through force. Through force, he recognises
committee will then come to the negotiating table. On the absence
force he will do things like he is doing today. I am afraid he
recognises one thing, which is strength and might and the only way
to deal with them is through that. President Obama has announced
plans to increase the US military presence in eastern Europe.
The move is a response to the crisis in Ukraine, and what the
US president described as Russia's 'provocation' in the region.
He's earmarked one billion dollars to pay for greater US participation
in training and exercises, to rotate troops into the region
and to provide naval deployments in the Black Sea and Baltic Sea.
With me is Nicholas Burns - former US Ambassador to NATO, now
Thank you for coming in. Is this enough? It is the right move by the
President of the United States and by the NATO alliance, because
President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron have been very clear, they
are not going to have a military confrontation risk war with God
you're putting over Ukraine. We have no security commitment with them. --
brisk walk with Vladimir Putin over Ukraine. But is story and Latvia are
former republics, Babe Ruth -- they both have significant ethnic Russian
population. The theory is if there is not a strong announcement,
Vladimir Putin will not respect the Alliance and might think he has more
running room in Eastern Europe than he thinks. It is prudent, it is
wise, we will not see a major build-up. The danger is it will be
seen as a provocation. Vladimir Putin is many things but he is not
irrational. He understands power, just like President Assad. He needs
to be shown that NATO will live up to Article five, which is that an
attack on one is an attack on all. This reinforces the chance to
maintain stability in Eastern Europe as a result of what happened in
Crimea. Do you see a future in which Ukraine becomes a member of the
European Union and NATO? Not any time soon. I think it should have
representation in Brussels, certainly in the form of a trade
agreement, it is a partner of NATO, it has been training with them, but
to bring them into the alliance any time soon, I don't think you would
have the unanimity that would require and that might be the kind
of provocation that would be very unwise. Friendship towards Ukraine,
economic and political support, maybe even helping them build a
military, that is as far as you will see the US and Europe go. How do you
assess the approach of Vladimir Putin towards the separatist in the
east of Ukraine? He is pulling back troops from the border. He says he
is. He is actually quite devious and it is a highly cynical policy. He
says he is not interfering and yet when some of these ethnic Russians
have been killed the remains have been shipped back to Russia. It
stands to reason as many governments have been saying that the Russian
government is actually directing some of these operations, and agents
of the Russian government are helping to form these bands of armed
brigands. That is what they are. They are trying to take over the
legal authorities that are the responsibilities of the Ukrainian
government. I don't think we should believe flooding are put in when he
says his intentions are benign. You think there will be a problem
getting this programme through Congress? I don't. I think they are
urging the president to show a little more strength on Ukraine. He
did that today. He is to be commended for that. He will have
congressional support for that. On another issue, we're hearing in
Egypt's that -- we're hearing the results of election. Can they do
business? They will have no choice because each are so important in the
effort to contain Iran, to maintain the support of the moderate states
of the Middle East. There will be a lot of misgivings because it is a
return to military dictatorship and Egypt's highly divisive politics
will be difficult to deal with. Very good to speak to you. As we were
saying, Egypt's former army chief has been confirmed as the next
president, winning by a landslide with more than 96% of the vote. The
right spread -- result was expected. We will get more now. This was
expected but tell us more about the figures, the voting figures and the
turnout figures. A landslide victory for the Field Marshall, more than
96% of the votes. His opponent got less than 4%. We have other figures
to consider. The turnout was around 47% only. Less than 50% of eligible
voters took apart. More than 50% chose to stay away. They do not
believe in this political process, so Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi has some
steps to take to convince these people he will be a president for
all Egyptians, not only those who voted for him. He is now addressing
a nation with a severely divided political landscape, polarisation in
the political scene, so he has lots of challenges that lie ahead. His
inaugural ceremony will be next week, after that he has lots of
problems to take care of and he has to point out what his plan is to
address all these lingering problems. In fact, in a speech that
he gave a while ago, he thanked the Army, the judges, the media, and
there has been lots of concerns about media restrictions in the
period to come, given the fact that the man comes from a military
background. Some media groups and human rights groups are afraid there
will be lots of restrictions on freedom of speech. Perhaps he
intended to give some assurance that the period to come will not be a
period of restriction. He's one of Pakistan's most powerful
politicians but he is now in police custody in London, arrested
on suspicion of money laundering. Altaf Hussain,
leader of Pakistan's third largest party the MQM, has been living
in the UK in self-imposed exile In the party's powerbase,
Pakistan's largest city Karachi, police are on the streets
and thousands of supporters have Here in London, the BBC's Richard
Galpin has been to Altaf Hussain's Plainclothes police officers moved
in this morning, to arrest Altaf Hussain here at his home in a
wealthy area of north London. The result of an investigation lasting
at least a year. But this police operation was not just about
arresting him. It was also to try to find more evidence. The police had
been searching his house here for hours. And it's not the first raid
here. There have been many others in the past. There are also other
allegations against Mr Husain, not just the allegation of
money-laundering. He is also accused of inciting his millions of
supporters in Karachi to violence. He denies all the allegations.
Although based here in London for more than 20 years, Altaf Hussain
still controls the MQM in Pakistani. Delivering firebrand speeches over
the telephone to the party faithful in Karachi. Including what seems to
be clear threats against the MQM's opponents and critics.
So, no surprise then that news of his arrest has already led to
trouble in Karachi, the MQM's heartland. His supporters taking to
the streets in angry protests, sparking fears, not least for
British citizens living in the city. British citizens have already been
moved from Karachi to Islamabad, especially the dramatic stuff, and
they have also asked the British people who are working over there to
take extra care -- especially Telematics staff. There may be a
direct threat to them. -- diplomatic staff. The situation is extreme.
Already many people have fled to the safety of their homes, with shops
and other businesses locked up. Many fearing the worst.
Now a look at some of the day's other news.
Spanish politicians have been outlining what happens next with
the abdication of King Juan Carlos and the accession of his son
On Monday the king announced that he would step down after
Thailand's ruling military council says it will lift a curfew
in some tourist areas, including the popular beach resorts
The curfew from midnight to 4am was imposed after the military took
Nigeria's interior minister has said that several people have been found
guilty of providing weapons to Boca have run militants, welcoming the
move. What is gladdening if the military high command has been able
to use it intelligence operations to identify people. Having found them
as early as this is gladdening to everybody who is concerned about
ending this insurgency. Staff at a British firm in
Sierra Leone have left the country following an outbreak
of the deadly Ebola virus. London Mining is
the first company to speak publicly There are already
about 50 suspected cases in Sierra There have been more than 100 deaths
in neighbouring Guinea where the outbreak started,
with cases also reported in Liberia He's Professor of Infectious Disease
Epidemiology at the London School You have been studying it polar for
more than 40 years. And you know how quickly it can spread. -- you have
been studying the Ebola virus. How easy is it to spread? It transfers
through blood from one person to another, sometimes through vomiting
or coughing on another person, and it has to be close contact. Those at
greatest risk are the health professionals. Is it wise to get
workers out of a dangerous field? I do not understand what the
considerations were in moving this people out, it is just because of
simple issues such as insurance, possibly, which tells the complete
to remove the Patriots. I cannot answer the question. There is very
little risk that they would be effective if they are not in close
contact with a patient with the Ebola virus. I was introducing the
story, I gave the viewers some number, but there could be others
who do not know about. It is difficult to find cases because they
are hidden in many times, there is a stigma sometimes against the cases
and families do not want to identify it. It is systematically searching
from village to village that people are found, managed in a hospital and
released. So who does that, is it health workers putting themselves at
risk? Health workers are at greatest risk, most outbreaks occur because
patients into a hospital where practices are not being done which
will protect the health workers. The best procedures are wearing gloves,
wearing a mask and making sure there is no contact directly with body
secretions. So there needs to be a lot of training for the
professionals who are expected to go out there and monitor and contained
the Ebola virus? Absolutely, it is vital, it is important for this
virus and many other hospital infections as well. The training
should be done on a regular basis, not just when there is an outbreak.
One of the concerns that some of the families have is that their loved
ones are in hospitals. We have had reports that infected patients have
been taken out because families want them treated by traditional healers.
Is that something you have heard? I have heard the same thing, this
often happens. Those at greatest risk now will be the traditional
healers who will be working with these patients and the family
members who are in contact with them. This is common, people wants
to take their sick ones home and Ebola virus patients are very sick.
Thank you for speaking to us about this.
It's 50 years since the first museum dedicated to African art opened
It was founded by Warren Robbins, a career diplomat who had never
visited the continent when he started his collection.
But he strongly believed that appreciating the art of Africa could
foster greater understanding between white and African-Americans
His collection eventually became the National Museum of African Art
and moved to the heart of the nation's capital.
The traditional art of Liberia and Sierra Leone convey a culture
These ceremonial masks and carvings, dating from
the 15th century to modern times, are part of a major exhibition at
We have got the joy of helping people to rethink how
This is only one aspect of African art, often mistakenly described
But half a century after America's first dedicated African art museum
opened its doors in Washington, perceptions are changing.
What I really feel excited about is that we no longer, I hope, have to
go to Europe or to the United States to justify the beauty, the
We can understand it because of its own aesthetic standards.
The 50th anniversary of the National Museum of African Art is also
Warren Robbins was a cultural attache working
One day in the late 1950s, he walked into an antique store
and bought a wooden carving, the start of a world-class collection.
And here we are at Warren Robbins' home.
Back in Washington, he turned his house
into a museum and used his African art as a vehicle for civil rights.
He created a space that was extraordinarily rare at the time.
Which is someplace that appreciates where African-Americans came from,
remember, we're talking about the United States in 1964, the
peak of the civil rights movement, and before it had triumphed.
So in that sense, it was a major move forward.
And as the museum has developed, that has only strengthened.
Robbins was also very well connected.
Hollywood stars such as Gregory Peck and Elizabeth Taylor flocked to
his exhibitions, raising the profile and understanding of African art.
I think Warren's legacy was to establish something that created
But what he always wanted was a museum that was living.
Today's museum, now part of the Smithsonian Institution, showcases
historical and contemporary works, helping visitors understand how
the art of Africa is as rich and diverse as the continent itself.
An expert scientific panel here in the UK has given its backing to a
fertility treatment that would allow genetic material from three people
to create a baby. The aim of the three parent IVF technique is to
prevent couples from passing on severe disabilities to their
children. The ground-breaking procedure, which involves replacing
40 part of the mitochondrial DNA, is still at research stay, but it could
be available for patients within two years if draft legislation is passed
into law. And we have shown you some -- and
here are some more unusual pictures of a black bear relaxing in the
Florida sunshine. This was in Daytona Beach, who said that there
looked like he was on vacation. He has been spotted around the
neighbourhood over the past few days, opening up bins and looking
for food. All good things must come to an end, the bins have been taken
away and the hammock removed on safety grounds.
As he had to the course of the night and area of low pressure will push
up from the south, and using a lot of rain to the country. That takes
over tomorrow, which will be relatively cool. Cooler than what we
have been used