North Korea has pledged to defend its new leader Kim Jong-un “unto death.” A joint New Year address published by state newspapers says the army, ruling party and people will become “human shields” to defend Kim Jong-il’s successor. The message also said the country must “launch an all-out drive” to achieve prosperity as 2012 marks the centennial of the birth of Kim Il-sung, North Korea’s founding leader and Kim Jong-un’s grandfather. The young ruler of the isolated communist state was recently appointed the Supreme Commander of the 1.2-million-strong army, one of the world’s biggest.
Syria's two largest opposition groups have signed a draft agreement on setting up a democracy after President Bashar Assad's regime falls, the Associated Press reports. Representatives from the Syrian National Council and the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria, say the draft was signed in Cairo on Friday night. Both groups have agreed that Assad's regime must go and be replaced by a democracy.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has declared a state of emergency in areas affected by violence and announced the closure of part of the country's border. According to the president the measures were necessary as terrorists were taking advantage of open borders to hit targets in Nigeria and then retreat from justice. "While the search for lasting solutions is ongoing, it has become imperative to take some decisive measures necessary to restore normalcy in the country, especially within the affected communities," Jonathan said.
Police have fired tear-gas at stone-throwing protesters in several Bahraini cities on Saturday. The demonstrators are calling for the government to resign, and for the police officers involved in the deaths of 35 protesters to stand trial. This is the latest flare-up in the Gulf kingdom, where rallies have been taking place for the last 10 months.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has decided to remain in the country as the protest against his regime spreads to government and security agencies. Mohammed al-Shayekh, a leading member of the ruling People's Congress Party, said that he has decided to remain in the country because protests against his regime have spread to include members of the civil service and key military units, the Associated Press reported. Earlier Saleh said he would travel to the US to try to calm tensions in his country. In November Saleh was promised immunity from prosecution in exchange for stepping down. But the unrest in Yemen continues, as many still want Saleh to stand trial for the deadly crackdown on protesters.
Police have arrested over a dozen people at an unsanctioned rally in the heart of the Russian capital. On the 31st of each month, many gather at the Triumfalnaya Square in Moscow in support of Article 31 of the Russian Constitution – the rights to gather and to speak freely. News agencies quoted an unnamed source within the police department as saying all the detained will be released before midnight.
Iran has formally called on the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany to return to the negotiating table over Iran’s notorious nuclear program. "We formally declared to them (the intent) to return to the path of dialogue for cooperation," Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, said as cited by the Associated Press. The declaration comes in the wake of another set of sanctions against Tehran’s nuclear program. The West accuses Iran of using its civilian uranium enrichment program as a cover for a military program, but Iran denies these charges, saying their program is oriented towards peaceful use. The last round of negotiations in January 2011 in Turkey ended in failure.
Hundreds of Ethiopian troops poured into a western Somalia border town on Saturday, opening a new front against the militant group al-Shabab, reports Associated Press. The military movement appears to be a third front against al-Shabab, Somalia's strongest militant group. Kenyan troops moved into Somalia in mid-October in a push against the militants in the country's south. African Union troops from Uganda, Burundi and most recently from Djibouti have mostly pushed al-Shabab fighters out of the capital, Mogadishu. US-backed Ethiopian troops moved into Somalia in 2006 at the invitation of the weak, UN-backed Somali government, says the agency. But the incursion was seen by many Somalis as an unpopular invasion and actually helped give birth to the al-Shabab movement. Ethiopians pulled out in early 2009, and there are fears that a new push by Somalia could be a propaganda coup for al-Shabab.
Russia’s Kazan helicopter plant has sent the first vehicles of the total 21 Mil Mi-17V5 it is to supply to NATO forces in Afghanistan. The remaining 12 aircraft will be shipped next year, reports ITAR-TASS citing the plant’s statement. The coalition forces paid $370 million for the helicopters, which will be used by its Afghan allies. Mi-17V5 modification is a transport vehicle, which can carry airborne troops or cargo. It can drop 36 paratroopers in just 15 seconds.
A house once inhabited by Jim Morrison was damaged in one of the 19 overnight arson attacks that plagued Hollywood and West Hollywood early Friday morning, according to Reuters. The fire broke out in a nearby car, then spread to the house. According to the agency, 56 firefighters responded to the blaze, which took 35 minutes to contain. One of the firefighters was injured in a fall from a ladder on the ground. He is in stable condition at a local hospital.
More than 200 people have been injured by firecrackers and New Year celebratory gunfire in the Philippines, Associated Press reports on Saturday. Stray bullets wounded eight people and 197 were injured by powerful firecrackers from December 21 to 30, Health Assistant Secretary Enrique Tayag said, adding that more than half of the victims were children. Many Filipinos believe that noisy New Year’s celebrations drive away evil and misfortune, and therefore bid goodbye to a year of natural disasters and economic uncertainty. The national police chief had to warn officers of immediate dismissal and criminal prosecution if they fire their guns to welcome the New Year. So far, at least three policemen are reported to have violated the warning and are under investigation
A 39-year-old man diagnosed with bird flu has died in the southern city of Shenzhen. The case was the first in more than a year, after a 59-year-old woman beat the disease last November 2010. The H5N1 influenza strain has high mortality rate, but is not easily transferred from to humans. Since 2003 the virus has killed 331, according to World Health Organization records.
A bomb has killed at least 13 people and injured some 20 in the city of Quetta in the Balochistan Province of Pakistan on Friday night. The explosive was planted in a vehicle parked near the house of the son of former state minister Mir Nasir Mengal. Shafiq Mengal and his family were not harmed in the attack. The blast also set on fire several nearby houses, local media report. Bomb disposal squad found and disarmed several hand grenades, which failed to trigger in the explosion.
Iran's senior navy commander denied media reports that the Islamic Republic had test-fired long-range missiles during a naval drill on Saturday, saying the missiles would be launched in the coming days, according to Reuters. Mahmoud Mousavi told Iran's English-language Press TV "the exercise of launching missiles will be carried out in the coming days."The semi-official Fars news agency had earlier reported that Iran had test-fired long-range and other missiles during the exercise on Saturday.
The world’s biggest oil consumer, the United States, also had fuel as its top export in 2011, the Associated Press reports, quoting US census records. The sales of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel jumped to $73.4 billion from $53.7 billion in 2010. Fuel was followed by aircraft sales, motor vehicles, vacuum tubes and telecommunications equipment.