Panetta: US to boost military ties with ASEAN

Updated 17 November 2012
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Panetta: US to boost military ties with ASEAN

SIEM REAP, Cambodia: US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta sought yesterday to promote Washington’s strategic shift to the Asia-Pacific and a tentative rapprochement with Myanmar as he met counterparts in the region.
The US tilt to Asia reflects a concerted effort by President Barack Obama’s administration to assert American influence in the face of China’s growing economic and military might.
“The message I have conveyed on this visit is that the United States’ rebalance to the Asia-Pacific is real, it is sustainable, and it will be ongoing for a long period of time,” Panetta said.
The US is deepening its military engagement with allies in the region, he told reporters after talks with counterparts from the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) — including Myanmar — in Cambodia.
He said the Pentagon would increase the size and number of its defense exercises with its Southeast Asian partners.
Fresh from re-election victory, Obama will arrive in the region next week for a historic visit to Myanmar before joining his top diplomat Hillary Clinton in Cambodia for an Asia-Pacific summit.
Obama will be the first sitting US president ever to go to Myanmar, also known as Burma, following a series of dramatic political changes in the former pariah state, which is emerging from decades of military rule.
Pentagon officials are considering reviving military ties with Myanmar to cooperate on non-lethal programs focused on medicine, education and disaster relief exercises.
The activities would be “limited in scope” at the outset, said a senior US defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“We’ll grow as appropriate over time. We need to see reform. We need to see continued progress,” the official said.
Myanmar is also expected to be invited to observe Cobra Gold, the largest US multilateral exercise in the Asia-Pacific. It brings together thousands of troops from the US, Thailand and other countries for field training.


Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan faces rape accuser in court

Updated 18 September 2018
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Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan faces rape accuser in court

  • Ramadan was charged in France in February with raping two women in hotels in 2009 and 2012
  • Swiss prosecutors have also opened an investigation into allegations that he raped a woman in a Geneva hotel in 2008

PARIS: Prominent Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan was due to face one of his rape accusers in a French court Tuesday as he seeks bail after seven months in custody on charges he furiously denies.
Ramadan, a frequent TV commentator, was a professor at Oxford University until he was forced to take leave when the rape allegations surfaced at the height of the “Me Too” movement late last year.
The Swiss citizen, whose grandfather founded Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, was charged in France in February with raping two women in hotels in 2009 and 2012.
Swiss prosecutors have also opened an investigation into allegations that he raped a woman in a Geneva hotel in 2008, local media reported Sunday.
Ramadan, 56, has repeatedly sought bail arguing that being in prison is making it more difficult for him to receive treatment for multiple sclerosis.
In a video posted on Facebook Monday, his son Sami said his father had been “presumed guilty since the start” and that he appeared frail during a recent visit. “He needs assistance and a walking frame to move,” he said in the video.
But judges have ruled that he has adequate care in the prison hospital at Fresnes in the southern Paris suburbs.
On Tuesday, he will come face-to-face with the disabled woman who accuses him of attacking her in the eastern French city of Lyon in 2009.
She remains anonymous but is known in the media as “Christelle.”
Ramadan was initially due to face her at a hearing in mid-July but it was postponed after Christelle’s lawyers said she was unwell.
Ramadan, a married father of four who has dismissed the allegations against him as a smear campaign, has denied any sexual contact with Christelle.
At a previous hearing she described a scar on Ramadan’s groin as proof they had a sexual encounter, but his lawyers have argued she could have obtained this detail from one of his former mistresses.
He has said he engaged in a flirtatious exchange of messages with the woman and met her for around half an hour in the hotel lobby, while she maintains that he raped and beat her in his room.
His other French accuser, a Muslim fundamentalist turned secular activist named Henda Ayari, went public with her allegations last October.
She said she was encouraged to speak out by the global torrent of sexual harassment and abuse stories unleashed by the allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Both she and Christelle said they approached Ramadan, one of the best-known Islamic scholars in Europe, seeking religious advice.
Ramadan’s lawyers have pointed to inconsistencies in Ayari’s account of the alleged attack.
Another woman, French former call girl Mounia Rabbouj, has accused Ramadan of raping her several times in France as well as in London and Brussels between 2013 and 2014, but he has not been charged over those allegations.
He maintains he had a consensual affair with Rabbouj, describing relations that were “feisty” and involved “domination.”