Top of the Morning: Malawi President Dead; Viktor Bout Sentenced; Lots of Syria Action at UN

Top stories from DAWNS Digest. 

Viktor Bout Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison

The infamous “Merchant of Death” had his day of reckoning with the American judicial system. The Russian arms dealer is alleged to have plied militias in Africa with weapons that were used to foment violence against civilians. The specific charges against him in the United States were for an alleged plot to ply Colombian rebels with missiles to shoot down American helicopters. He was arrested in a sting operation in Thailand four years ago,  “Viktor Bout’s sentence was the mandatory minimum he faced and well below the life prison term called for by federal sentencing guidelines. U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan said it was sufficient and appropriate because Bout’s crimes originated only because of an elaborate sting operation created by the Drug Enforcement Administration to catch one of the world’s most notorious arms dealers. She said there was no evidence the 45-year-old Bout had ever planned to harm Americans or commit a crime punishable in U.S. court until the sting was created.” (USA Today

Breaking: Malawi President Dead

Word last night was that Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika was being flown to a hospital in South Africa after suffering a heart attack. Apparently, he died in the hospital in Malawi. “Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika has died after a heart attack, medical and government sources said on Friday, although few of his countrymen mourned a leader widely seen as an autocrat responsible for a stunning economic collapse. The 78-year-old was rushed to hospital in Lilongwe on Thursday after collapsing but was dead on arrival, the sources said. State media said he had been flown to South Africa for treatment although his immediate whereabouts remained unclear. Medical sources said the former World Bank economist had been flown out because a power and energy crisis in the nation of 13 million was so severe the Lilongwe state hospital would have been unable to carry out a proper autopsy or even keep his body refrigerated. (Reuters

Lots of Syria Action at the UN

Kofi Annan briefed the General Assembly on his mediation efforts. He once again relayed that Syria pledged to cease all military operations by April 10, with the rebels following two days later. He called for UN monitors to be deployed to observe and report on the situation on the ground. In the meantime, the Security Council issued another presidential statement backing Annan’s efforts. “Annan and Ban spoke to the General Assembly minutes after the U.N. Security Council called on Syria to ‘urgently and visibly’ fulfill its pledge to halt the use of troops and weapons by April 10. It called on the government and opposition to stop all violence within 48 hours if Syria meets the pullout deadline. The presidential statement raised the possibility of ‘further steps’ if Syria doesn’t implement the six-point peace plan outlined by Annan, which Assad agreed to on March 25. The statement called on all parties, including the opposition, to stop armed violence in all forms in 48 hours after the Syrian government fully fulfills the measures. ‘All points of the plan are crucial, but one is most urgent: the need for a cessation of violence,’ Annan told diplomats from the 193 U.N. member states by videoconference from Geneva. ‘Clearly, the violence is still continuing. Alarming levels of casualties and other abuses continue to be reported daily. Military operations in civilian population centers have not stopped.’” (AP