BBC World Service News 05:00 GMT Thursday 19th May 2011

world newsBBC World Service News
05:00 GMT Thursday 19th May 2011
Newsreader: Julie Kantor

The detained head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Khan, has resigned with immediate effect. He’s been in custody in New York since the weekend, accused of attempted rape of a hotel chambermaid. Nora Trevelyan reports. (TAPE) Dominique Strauss-Khan says that it’s with “infinite sadness” he feels compelled to resign as managing director of the IMF. In his statement he denies, with the greatest possible firmness, all of the allegations agsinst him. The former IMF chief states that he wants to protect the institution he’s served, and devote all his strength and energy to proving his innocence. Later today, Mr Straus-Kahn’s lawyers will try once again to convince a judge to release him on bail. They’ll argue that he’s prepared to be electronically tagged, and confined to a Manhatten location.(LIVE)

Japan has been pushed back into recession by the earthquake and tsunami in March, and analysts predict further shrinkage before the recovery. Official figures for January to March show a year on year contraction of 3.7%, worse than expected. Roland Burke reports from Tokyo. (TAPE) The disaster destroyed factories in the North East, snapping supply chains, and disrupting production of cars and other goods. Consumer spending, which accounts for around 60% of the economy, also shrank. Nationwide, the japanese shunned shops, and cut back on luxuries, out of sympathy for those affected. Spending on reconstruction means the economy is likely to start to grow again later in the year. But ongoing electricity shortages amid the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant could hinder the recovery. (LIVE)

A rally is planned Thursday in Bangkok to mark the one year anniversary of a military operation to remove anti-government protestors who had occupied parts of the city for more than two months. The protestors, known as the Red Shirts, say they’ll gather peacefully to remember clashes between troops and protestors which left 90 people dead, most of them civilians. Rachel Harvey reports from Bangkok. (TAPE) The Truce and Reconciliation Commission was set up to establish the facts behind the violence. But one year on it’s yet to make public it’s findings. Those same streets will be filled again, as the Red Shirts gather to mark the anniversary of the protest’s bloody end. Many of their leaders have been charged with terrorism, in relation to last year’s violence, though none has yet been put on trial. No-one from the Government or military has been held to account. With an election due in July, Thailand’s political divisions are likely to be exposed once more. (LIVE)

President Obama is to make a speech later today, setting out his vision on the shifting politics of the Middle East. Mr.Obama is expected to say that this is a time of opportunity for the whole region, and that America is on the side of democracy. He’s also expected to announce economic aid for Tunisia and Egypt, sending a signal that the U.S. will reward those who embrace reforms.

Reports from Argentina say a plane has crashed in a town in the southern Patagonia region. The regional airline Sol said the twin-engined turboprop was carrying 22 people. It said the pilot had signalled an emergency before the plans came down near the town of Prahuaniyeu. Officials said there were no survivors.

The United States has imposed its first ever sanctions against the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, and six other senior officials, for human rights abuses committed during the supression of anti-Government protests. Any assets they may have in the U.S. or which fall within the American jurisdiction will be frozen. Kim Ghattas reports from Washington. (TAPE) It’s not every day that the U.S. imposes sanctions on the president of another country. Even Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and North Korea’s Kim Jong-il have escaped that fate. But Washington now believes that President Bashar Al-Assad is personally responsible for the violent crackdown against Syrian protestors calling for more freedom. The U.S. Treasury Department said the move was an unequivocal message to the Syrian President and the Syrian leadership, that they will be held accountable for the violence and repression. (LIVE) Earlier, President Assad said the Syrian security forces had made mistakes in their handling of the protests, while the BBC received new reports of Army attacks on civilians. A journalist detained in Syria last month Dorothy Parvaz said she heard savage beatings day and night whilst in captivity. Miss Parvaz, who works for Al-Jazeera, was held in a detention centre for three days over alleged passport irregularities. She recounted seeing a man shackled to a radiator, and apparently being forced to write a confession.

A walnut cigar box once owned by Edward John Smith, captain of the Titanic, goes up for auction on Thursday. The owner had been unaware of its significance, and left it gathering dust on top of a cabinet until an auctioneer spotted it’s value. It bears the emblem in ivory of the White Star Line shipping company, and the captain’s initials.