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9 December, 2011


South Ossetian President to step down within hours

­After a deal struck following the election turmoil in the Caucasus state of South Ossetia, President Eduard Kokoty is set to step down several hours from now. The opposition pledges to end protests after that. Current Prime Minister Vadim Brovtsev will be the acting President until March 25, when the new election is due to be held. Opposition leader and former candidate All Dzhioeva will be able to run. Kokoity and Dzhioyeva
put their signatures to the arrangement on Friday.


­Second Moscow stabbing victim dies in hospital

The victim, a 75-year old woman, was one of 11 victims of an apparently mentally unstable man, who targeted random people in the south-east of Moscow on Friday. Most of the wounded were elderly citizens, but a child who witnessed the attacks is also being considered a victim. The suspect, who is in police custody, is expected to be court-ordered to submit to psychiatric evaluation.


­China honors Russian PM with Peace Prize

The Confucius Peace Prize Organization has announced that Vladimir Putin is receiving the award, in light of the "remarkable enhancement of the military might and political status of Russia" during the years 2000 to 2008 – his time as president. The award was launched only last year – as an alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize – and was held a day before the Nobel ceremony in Oslo.


­Final results announced in Russia's election

Russia's Central Election Committee has finished up its final ballot count in the country's parliamentary election, which took place this Sunday. In the lead – though with significantly fewer ballots than in the last vote – is the United Russia party, with 238 seats. The runners-up are the Communists, with 92 seats; the Liberal Democrats, with 56; and Fair Russia with 64 seats. The Duma will be made up of the same parties as its last convocation, as no newcomers made it past the 7% barrier. Many in Russia have been protesting the election results, claiming there were major irregularities.


­Police confirm Virginia Tech gunman shot himself

State police say they are confident the gunman who killed a police officer at Virginia Tech acted alone. Forensics have proved the killer used  a handgun to murder Officer Cruise before turning the weapon on himself. On Thursday a campus alert went out in Blacksburg with reports of shots fired. Just 4 years ago, Virginia Tech was the scene of the deadliest shooting by a single gunman in US history. 32 people were killed and 25 were wounded by the perpetrator - a mentally-ill senior at the school -  before he committed suicide.


Syria’s opposition leader asks military defectors to halt attacks

Syrian National Council leader Burhan Ghalioun says he has urged the Free Syrian Army, an umbrella group of armed rebels, to rein in operations and stop attacks on government troops. The county risks sliding into a civil war with the official army and military defectors fighting each other, he said. But Ghalioun told Reuters his influence may not be enough. Protests continued in Syria on Friday. Security forces reportedly killed at least eight protesters in Homs. Anti-government rallies held on Fridays will be followed by a general strike starting from this weekend and possibly lasting till the end of year, opposition leaders say.


Gaddafi’s son denies Mexico escape plan

The son of the late Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, has “vigorously denied” plotting to illegally sneak into Mexico, Al-Saadi Gaddafi’s lawyer said on Friday. The authorities in that country claimed on Wednesday that he had tried to escape his home country with his family under false names as rebels attacked his father’s regime. AP quoted defense lawyer Nick Kaufman as saying that Al-Saadi is grateful to the authorities of Niger for giving him refuge.


Indian police arrest hospital officials after fire kills 89

Six AMRI hospital officials have been arrested on charges of culpable homicide in India’s Kolkata (Calcutta) after a fire killed 89 people on Friday. Subrata Mukherjee, West Bengal state minister for public health, said senior hospital officials had run away after the fire broke out, AP reports. The hospital denied any violations of safety measures. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has “expressed shock and anguish over the loss of lives,” his spokesman said.


Nine EU states to join eurozone’s budget and fiscal union

Nine European Union member states within the common currency zone signed up to a budget and fiscal union at the EU summit in Brussels on Friday. The leaders of countries outside the eurozone – Denmark, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Sweden – agreed to participate in the new phase of integration after consultations with their governments. The move leaves Britain isolated in the EU. UK Prime Minister David Cameron earlier blocked the EU-wide changes. London says the plan proposed by Germany and France may undermine its sovereignty.


Package bomb explodes at tax collection office in Rome

A parcel bomb has exploded at a tax collection office in Rome, injuring one person. Police say the bomb went off at midday on Friday at an office of Equitalia, which is charged with collecting taxes, AP reports. On Thursday, German prosecutors said an Italian far-left anarchist organization called Federazione Anarchica Informale had claimed responsibility for a letter bomb sent to Deutsche Bank Chief Executive Josef Ackermann, which was intercepted. The FAI has claimed responsibility for a string of attacks on state organizations in Italy.


Japan’s Tepco scraps plan to dump Fukushima water into sea

Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), the utility operating Fukushima’s Daiichi plant, has scrapped a plan to dump water it treated for radiation contamination into the sea. The decision followed fierce protests from fishing groups. The day before, Tepco announced its intention to discharge some treated water into the sea as it was running out of storage space. A powerful quake and tsunami struck the Fukushima plant in March, releasing radiation into the atmosphere.


Ireland may hold referendum on EU fiscal plan

The EU’s plans for fiscal union could require a referendum in Ireland, the country's European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton said on Friday. She told Reuters there was a 50-50 chance of a referendum going ahead, and said the decision could be made in couple of weeks. After the EU summit on Thursday, France and Germany will work on an intergovernmental treaty among eurozone countries and any others that want to join. Britain refused to accept proposed amendments to the EU treaty.


Moscow to decide on presence at Russia-NATO summit after presidential poll

Moscow will take a decision on whether or not to take part in the next Russia-NATO summit after the presidential elections in March 2012, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said. It is not clear if there will be an agreement on missile defense by May next year, he told Russia 24 TV channel. Ryabkov also said the US and NATO were not ready to take into account Russia’s concerns over missile defense, but added Russia is prepared to continue the dialogue. Speaking on another topic, Ryabkov stressed that Moscow has “no evidence about the military component in the Iranian nuclear program,” and warned Israel against a military strike on Iran.


Croatia signs accession treaty to join EU in 2013

Croatia has signed an accession treaty enabling it to join the EU after the bloc’s 27 member nations ratify it. Until Croatia becomes a full member, it will be an “active observer” in the EU, its president, Herman Van Rompuy, said. The country is being admitted after seven years of entry talks. The EU delayed the decision because of Croatia’s territorial disputes with neighboring Slovenia. Croatia was also urged to arrest war crimes suspects on its territory. Montenegro may receive the green light to open accession talks next June, while Serbia’s candidate status may be postponed until next March.


Man attacks Moscow residents with knife

A man injured several people with a knife in southeast Moscow on Friday. Police put the number of  wounded at 11, and said one of them died. The knife-wielding man was spotted in the courtyards of two houses on Korneichuk street this afternoon, a police source told Interfax. He attacked a number of passers-by before being arrested. Police say the man was in “inadequate condition” and is suspected to be on drugs. One of those injured is in a serious condition.


Organizers of Saturday's Moscow rally urge peaceful conduct

The organizers of a protest rally against alleged vote rigging in the State Duma elections have agreed to gather on Bolotnaya Square in central Moscow on Saturday. The Moscow authorities have sanctioned a 30,000 turnout. Opposition groups originally planned to hold a rally on Revolution Square, but had been limited to just 300 people. Organizers have urged protesters “not to yield to provocations,” come to Bolotnaya for a peaceful rally and avoid clashes with police. Some opposition leaders will come to Revolution Square but only to direct protesters over to the larger venue.


Roadside bomb targets UN peacekeepers in Lebanon

Up to six peacekeepers have been injured in an explosion in southern Lebanon caused by a roadside bomb. According to local media, a French UN patrol was the target, although the UN Interim Force in Lebanon did not immediately confirm the report. There have been several attacks on UN peacekeepers in Lebanon in recent months, including a roadside bomb attack in July on a UN convoy carrying French peacekeepers.


New military operation in Gaza ‘not ruled out’ – Israeli FM

Israel does not rule out conducting a new military operation in the Gaza Strip, but it will try hard to avoid it, Israel Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in Moscow on Friday. The past five years have seen 12,000 rockets fired at Israel’s southern region, he said, adding that the country must be able to defend its own territory. Some 1,200 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died in an Israeli assault on Gaza in late 2008-early 2009 dubbed Operation Cast Lead. Lieberman said his country is ready to resume dialogue with the Palestinians, but stressed they “have been refusing to negotiate for three years.” On Friday, Israeli air forces hit targets in Gaza, killing one civilian and wounding 13 after a fresh volley of Palestinian rockets hit southern Israel.


One killed, five injured in Dagestan attack

One police officer has been killed and five other people wounded in an attack on a police car in the Kizlyar district of Dagestan in the North Caucasus. The police car came under fire between the villages of Shaumyan and Kosyakino at around 10:00 pm on Thursday on its way to attend a road accident, Interfax said. Three policemen, the driver and two passengers of another car were injured, and one of the police officers died in hospital later. Police have opened a criminal investigation which could carry charges of an attempt on the life of a police officer.


Pakistan to deploy air defense weapons near Afghan border

Islamabad is preparing to deploy air defense weapons on the border with Afghanistan to prevent any more NATO air strikes. Major General Ashfaq Nadeem, director general of military operations, announced the plan, adding that the NATO attack that killed 24 Pakistani troops last month was pre-planned, the local media report. Some Pakistani lawmakers speculate the air strike may have been carried out “by the CIA.”


UN chief pays rare visit to Somalia

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has arrived in Somalia’s capital.  It is the first visit by the organization’s chief to Mogadishu in years, AP said. This time last year, al-Shabab militants controlled most of the city. The UN chief’s visit to war-torn Somali became possible because of the military gains African Union forces have made against the militants. On Thursday, the UN backed Kenya’s military operation against the al-Shabab militia in Somalia.


Scores dead in Indian hospital fire

At least 40 people have been killed in a fire at the AMRI hospital in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata (Calcutta), according to Indian police and officials. The fire erupted in the basement of the hospital early Friday morning, the media reported. Some patients were trapped and were suffocated by the fumes, West Bengal Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim said. It took fire brigades five hours to localize the blaze.


EU drops treaty change plan in wake of UK objections

The European Union will not seek a change to its treaty in the light of opposition from the UK, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said early on Friday, adding that he respects Britain’s stance. An agreement on treaty reform among all 27 member states would have been his preferred option, he said after the first day of a critical EU summit in Brussels. However, a solution will now be sought through an intergovernmental treaty to tighten the bloc’s budget policies among the 17 eurozone members, but open to others, Sarkozy said. EU leaders have also sealed a new fiscal pact ensuring tougher budget discipline and agreed to provide up to $268 billion in extra resources to the International Monetary Fund.


Five South Korean workers killed by train

­Five railway workers in South Korea have been killed and one more seriously injured in a train accident, according to local officials quoted by AP. They were hit by a train early on Friday while they were replacing track sections in preparation for the winter. An investigation into the case has been launched.


Justice to gain speed in Greece after laws change

­Greek Justice Minister Miltiadis Papaioannou has come up with a draft law for reform of the country’s judicial system, AP reports. Presenting the proposal on Thursday, he noted that the new rules are to speed up court processes which now in some cases may last for decades. Papaioannou says a new draft law will increase court working hours, streamline some criminal proceedings and shift jurisdiction for consensual divorces to registrars’ offices. There are also plans to reduce some most common sources of cases – those including minor assault, threatening behavior and defamation – from misdemeanors to petty offenses, which courts can process much faster. The European Court of Human Rights fined Greece $11.4 million for delays in awarding justice, including one case that took 27 years to conclude.


Germany fails to push all-EU reform

­At the crunch euro EU summit on Thursday, Germany has failed to convince all 27 EU member counties of the need to agree to reform budgeting. So, measures on toughening budget and tax policies that were discussed at the meeting are likely to be considered now only by the 17 eurozone countries. European Council President Herman Van Rompuy who’s helped steer the reforms claims they can come in without any changes to the EU’s basic agreements and treaties. The Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore however said that while that would be desirable, a referendum may be needed in his country to amend the Lisbon Treaty, the EU’s governing rule-book. The need for national approval across the EU with citizens angry at austerity measures could pose significant political challenges to the implementation of budgetary and taxation changes.