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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Michael's Morning 7 - 27 May

U.K. Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Wednesday the Cyprus conflict requires an "urgent" settlement as he reassured Turkey that Britain stands firm by its bid to join the European Union. "We want to see a Cyprus settlement as soon as possible. The need is urgent for the people of Cyprus and it's also urgently important in geopolitical terms," he said. The Cyprus conflict remains a stumbling block for Turkey's bid to join the E.U. and Davutoglu said that "2009 is a great opportunity for a comprehensive settlement." Asked about French and German objections, Miliband said: "The decision of the 27 (E.U. member states) was to launch an accession process with responsibilities for Turkey but also responsibilities for the E.U. We must make sure that they are being carried out with real boldness and drive."

It is rare for a resolution by an international body to satisfy both sides in any dispute in South Eastern Europe, but a resolution on Kosovo by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) appears to have achieved just that. After lobbying, the resolution – initiated by Albania and formally tabled by Saudi Arabia – did not call for further recognitions. Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008. Belgrade, which strenuously objects to the declaration, has won United Nations General Assembly backing to refer the matter to the World Court for an opinion on the validity of the independence declaration. Radio Srbija reported the political director of the Serbian foreign ministry, Borislav Stefanovic, as saying that the final form of the resolution meant that a new surge of recognition of Kosovo had been prevented. "He told the press that Serbia had prepared well and managed to stop another attempt at curbing its territorial integrity," Radio Srbija said.

International anxiety about North Korea's nuclear weapons programme has intensified overnight with three pieces of bad news from the Korean peninsula: first, another short-range missile was fired late on Tuesday, the sixth in two days; second, the regime appears to have restarted the plutonium reactor where it produces fuel for nuclear warheads; and, third, Kim Jong-il's regime has threatened military action against South Korea, claiming it is no longer bound by the armistice which ended the Korean war in 1953. The ground-to-ship missile was fired late on Tuesday, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency, which also claims there are signs of imminent further launches of missiles.

Russia is taking preventative measures, including military ones, after North Korea tested an atomic bomb, Interfax news agency quoted an unidentified official in Russia's security services as saying on Wednesday. The official said the measures -- which did not include troop movements -- were needed in case a nuclear war broke out on the Korean peninsula, Interfax reported.

Greece will open a new Acropolis Museum in June, with the aim of bringing back historical monuments currently exhibited in the British Museum in London. Greece has campaigned for decades to retrieve the Parthenon sculptures, but the British Museum has refused to return the treasures. The museum, which expects around 2.5 million visitors a year.

Around 70 graves at two Palestinian Christian cemeteries in the West Bank village of Jiffna desecrated by vandals. Palestinian authorities have called it a "rare attack" on the occupied territory's Christian minority. A Greek Orthodox official said he believed the vandalism was a one-off incident: "When we arrived this morning to attend holy mass, we were surprised with the desecration of the graves of the Christian dead in this cemetery. Out of the 200 graves, about 70 were destroyed and their crosses broken. This is the first time Christian property has been attacked by trouble-makers attempting to create a bad mood in society here."

About 300 Orthodox Christians gathered in a steady rain in St. Augustine last week to celebrate the opening of a facility designed to train missionaries for their assignments around the world. Clutching cameras and umbrellas, they beamed as archbishops, metropolitans and other spiritual leaders from across the Orthodox spectrum - Greek, Antiochian, Serbian, Carpatho Russian, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Romanian, Albanian and American - participated Thursday in a ritual opening and blessing of the new facility. But organizers said the event was also a celebration of an emerging unity among various Orthodox Christian traditions in the United States. "This is the first permanent facility of the combined Orthodox churches in America," said Clifford Argue, a Seattle resident and president of the board of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center. Here's a look at the facility, its mission and its importance to American Orthodox Christianity.