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10 February, 2012


Greek cabinet approves austerity bill

­The Greek cabinet has approved draft legislation for the new austerity measures needed for a €130 billion bailout from the troika of the EU, the IMF and the European Central Bank. The bill was submitted to the parliament which is scheduled to vote on it on Sunday. Prime Minister Lucas Papademos has warned that the measures are vital to avoid a default that would cost Greece its place in the eurozone and spark “economic chaos and social explosion.” Six ministers have quit the cabinet over the harsh new cuts, which include the redundancies of thousands of civil servants and slashing the minimum wage.


Sixteen police arrested over strike in Rio

­Brazil’s military police say 16 policemen have been arrested for organizing a police strike in Rio de Janeiro, the newspaper Folha de Sao Paolo reports. Earlier, it was reported that 59 people had been arrested. Most of them were later released. Some 129 military police officers are facing administrative charges. On Thursday, firefighters and both the civil and military police voted to go on strike in Rio de Janeiro despite legislators approving a pay rise. The strike seriously jeopardizes security in Brazil’s largest city as it comes a week before the world-famous Rio Carnival.  About two million people from around the globe are expected to come for the festivity.


Argentina claims UK sent nuclear-armed sub to Falklands

­Argentina says that Britain has sent a nuclear-armed submarine to the South Atlantic near the Falkland Islands, the Associated Press reports. Argentine foreign minister Hector Timerman said that his country has information that a Vanguard class submarine – a type which usually carries nuclear weapons - was recently part of UK’s deployment in the Falklands. Speaking to reporters at the UN on Friday he added that Argentina asked Britain through diplomatic channels if it had introduced nuclear weapons to the South Atlantic. British UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said later: “We do not comment on the disposition of nuclear weapons or submarines.” The Falklands have recently become a source of contention between the two nations after Buenos Aires complained to the UN over the UK’s “militarization” of the region.


Police officer killed by militants in Dagestan

One special forces officer has been killed and another wounded in a shoot-out with militants in a Dagestani village. The fighting began when police arrived at a residential house where they believed a group of armed militants were hiding out. The suspects then opened fire on the law enforcement team. Police say there are three to five militants inside, believed to members of a wanted terrorist group. Additional forces are being deployed to the site. Dagestan, in Russia’s turbulent North Caucasus, has seen a number of violent attacks in recent years.


Greek police want EU and IMF officials behind bars

­Greece’s largest police union has threatened to issue a symbolic warrant for the arrest of key EU and IMF officials. The union accuses the two international organizations, which have imposed tough measures as a condition for financial aid, of "blackmail and covertly abolishing or eroding democracy and national sovereignty." On the verge of bankruptcy, Greece has had to implement a series of radical austerity measures, the latest of which is a 22 per cent cut in the minimum wage. The warrant is unlikely to have legal power, but the police say it is a show of solidarity with anti-European protesters, whom the police have often clashed with during frequent mass demonstrations in Athens.


Germany halts ACTA approval

­Germany has delayed its approval of the ACTA treaty because the Justice Ministry has voiced its concerns about the legislation, saying the European Parliament should vote on ACTA before it is considered by the parliament. Three of Germany’s parties, the Pirate Party, the Left Party and the Greens, have also spoken out against ACTA. German protesters are expected to stage demonstrations in over 60 towns across the country on Saturday. Earlier Poland and the Czech Republic refused to approve the agreement. Both countries saw major protests in the streets.


Anonymous donor gives kilo of gold to Belarusian church

­An anonymous benefactor has donated a one-kilogram bar of gold for the construction of an Orthodox church in the Belarusian city of Brest. The gold was spotted by a security guard in a local shop where a donation box had been placed. The video surveillance footage shows that a man around 30 years old had put the bar into the box, apparently saying: “For the domes!”  The bar has been handed over to the church, which sold it for over $50,000. The church priest said the money would be spent to pay off the church’s reconstruction debts.


Three Korean tourists kidnapped in Egypt

­Armed Egyptian tribesmen have attacked a tourist bus in Sinai, kidnapping three Korean nationals and their Egyptian guide on Friday. The tribesmen took only those four from the bus, leaving the other tourists behind, the Associated Press reports citing Egypt's security chief. Egyptian Tribesmen often attack tourists and take them hostage in order to negotiate with the government, but rarely harm their hostages. Tribesmen abducted two American women in Sinai last week, and released them few hours after the attack. Earlier, on January 31, they captured 25 Chinese nationals and released them the next day.


India test-launches interceptor missile

India successfully launched an interceptor missile to destroy an incoming target missile over the Bay of Bengal on Friday. In a crucial test, the missile Advanced Air Defense (AAD) was fired from Wheeler Island, Hindu newspaper reports. India plans to deploy a two-tiered BMD system to engage and kill incoming enemy missiles, the paper said. Six of the tests to date have been successful.


Spain detains suspected accomplice in Serbian PM Djindjic assassination

Spanish police have arrested a man who was allegedly involved in the assassination of Serbia's Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in 2003. Luka Bojovic was arrested in a restaurant in the eastern coastal city of Valencia on Thursday, AP reports. According to police, Bojovic was a member of the Serbian paramilitary group known as “Arkan’s Tigers.” Djindjic was killed by a sniper in Belgrade. Zvezdan Jovanovic was sentenced to 40 years in prison as the executor of the crime. Bojovic was arrested just days after two other convicted members of Zemun clan tried to escape from a prison in Belgrade.


Far-right party ministers resign from Greek government over bailout

Ministers from the far-right LAOS party in Greece’s coalition government have offered their resignations to Prime Minister Lucas Papademos. The premier will have to decide whether or not to accept them, Reuters reports, citing other media. The LAOS party, or the Popular Orthodox Rally, has four members in the cabinet. The party’s leader George Karatzaferis said the far-right will not vote for the 130 billion-euro bailout plan needed to save Greece from default. The party holds only 15 of the 300 parliamentary votes. Karatzaferis also wanted the IMF mission chief in Greece, Poul Thomsen, to be declared “persona non grata.”


No British forces in Syria – reports

Britain has not sent any of its armed units to Syria, a source in the British embassy in Moscow has said. The allegations that some British commandos are on the Syrian territory are false, the source told RIA Novosti on Friday. Media earlier alleged that British and Qatari commandos had been sent to Syria. Meanwhile, Chinese media have reported that Iran has sent its commandos to Syria to help President Bashar al-Assad. As the situation in Syria “is becoming critical,” about 15,000 Iranian commandos will be deployed in the country’s key provinces, the reports said.


Attackers target security bases in Syria’s Aleppo

Twenty-five people have been killed and 175 people wounded in two blasts targeting security bases in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, state media say. Two explosions struck security compounds on Friday. The Syrian state television said “armed terrorist gangs” killed both civilians and members of the security forces. There were reports that the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) had claimed responsibility for the attacks. “This was not a car bomb but a military operation,” Col. Arif al-Hamoud told BBC Arabic. But in a conflicting report, AFP said another FSA representative, Col. Mahir Nouaimi, had condemned the government for “bomb attacks in Aleppo to steer attention away from what it is doing in Homs.”


McCartney honored with Hollywood Walk of Fame star

Paul McCartney has been given his own star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. He has become the last of the four Beatles to get the honor. “I would have never thought the day would come when I’d be getting a star on the Walk of Fame,” he said, as cited by Reuters. “I thought it was an impossible thing to happen.” McCartney’s star was placed outside the Capitol Records building, alongside those of John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. The Beatles were given a star as a group in 1998.


India insists on diplomatic solution for Iranian nuclear problem

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Friday that the international community should use diplomacy as a way to solve Iran’s nuclear problem. The nuclear issue “can be and should be resolved by giving maximum scope to diplomacy,” Singh said. He was speaking after a meeting with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. India is resisting pressure from the United States and the European Union to curtail its trade with Tehran. Washington and the EU countries had imposed sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear program.


Three Moscow markets evacuated due to bomb scare

Moscow police have ordered evacuation from three markets after receiving an anonymous call saying bombs had been planted at the venues. More than 800 people have been evacuated from Danilovsky, Lefortovsky and Velozavodsky markets, Interfax said. Police experts are working at the scene.


Russia jails space test engineer to 13 years for passing secrets to CIA

Senior test engineer of the Plesetsk Cosmodrome Lt. Col.  Vladimir Nesteretshas has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for passing secrets to CIA, the Federal Security Service (FSB) said on Friday. The Third District Military Court sentenced him for a crime described in Article  275 of  the Russian  Criminal Code - high treason, Interfax reports. He will serve his sentence at a high security penitentiary, the statement said. Nesterets reportedly pleaded guilty to passing secret information on tests of the latest Russian strategic missile systems to the US’s CIA officials in exchange for money. The former test engineer will also be deprived of his military rank.


Russian parliament may send observers to Syria

The lower house of the Russian parliament, the State Duma, is ready to send its observers to Syria. The move will get a green light if it is deemed necessary, speaker Sergey Naryshkin said on Friday. He made it clear that the parliament may include its representatives in the delegation of observers if Russia forms one. The State Duma also declared in a statement its support for the Russian official position in the Syrian settlement.


Taliban threatens Prince Harry in Afghanistan

A representative of the Taliban has warned Prince Harry against his second deployment in Afghanistan. “A prince should use his position to help people, not to come and kill people around the world,” a Taliban spokesman told the Telegraph. Prince Harry may return to Afghanistan for a tour of duty this year. He has just completed training for an Apache helicopter pilot. The Taliban representative said the movement will use its power to “capture the prince.” The military believe Harry will be less vulnerable as a pilot while on a mission in that country.


Rasmussen says NATO won’t interfere in Syrian crisis

NATO will not interfere in the Syrian crisis, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said. Speaking with Turkish NTV channel on Friday, he noted that Syria was not on the alliance’s agenda. He warned, however, that NATO was closely following the situation in that country. Rasmussen urged the Syrian government to meet the demands of their own people. The NATO head said earlier the alliance did not even discuss the possible intervention in Syria. He strongly condemned Syrian security forces’ crackdown on civilians. The only way forward in Syria is “to introduce freedoms, democracy and accommodate people’s legitimate aspirations,” he said.


NASA budget cuts to affect Mars exploration

The budget of NASA will be cut by 20 per cent after new budget proposals are submitted by the Obama administration next week. The White House will propose a $1.2 billion budget for the US space agency, according to Louis Friedman, a former NASA official and co-founder of the Planetary Society. It is down from $1.5 billion this year. The move will cut and eliminate a major partnership with Europe on Mars exploration, she told AFP. The cuts will affect ExoMars project which aimed to send an orbiter to the Red Planet in 2016 and a pair of rovers in 2018.


Syria completes draft of new constitution

The work to draft a new Syrian constitution has been completed, officials say. The draft was submitted to President Bashar al-Assad for consideration. The document envisages the introduction of multi-party system. If adopted, it will only allow one seven-year presidential term for the head of state. The president ordered the formation of a national committee to draft the constitution on October 15 last year. The committee includes 29 lawyers, academics, and public figures.


Pakistani Supreme Court rejects PM’s appeal in contempt case

Pakistan’s Supreme Court has rejected an appeal filed by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in a contempt case on Friday.  Gilani is set to be charged on 13 February. He is accused of failing to re-open corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. The court says Gilani and his advisers have ignored orders to ask Swiss authorities to re-open the corruption cases. Thousands of such cases were thrown out by a controversial amnesty law adopted in 2007. The premier maintains that Zardari has immunity as the president.


Two blasts hit Syrian city of Aleppo

Two explosions have hit Syria’s northern city of Aleppo, state-run TV said on Friday. The blasts have caused an unspecified number of “deaths and injuries,” according to the official SANA news agency. The blasts were the first in Syria’s largest city. It has not been affected seriously by the Syrian uprising that began in March, AP said. A suicide attack in Damascus killed 26 people last month. The UN says more than 5,400 people have been killed in the government’s crackdown on the uprising.


Death toll in Philippines quake rises to 35

The death toll from landslides triggered by an earthquake in the central Philippines has risen to 35. Scores of missing are feared dead, Reuters reports. Rescue efforts have been hampered by rains and aftershocks. A magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck near Tayasan town on central Negros Island on Monday. It damaged bridges, highways, buildings and communications lines. Since Monday, more than 1,400 aftershocks have been recorded.


EU holds back rescue package for Greece

Finance ministers of the eurozone countries have refused to sign off on a 130 billion-euro bailout for Greece until its parliament has approved new austerity measures. “No disbursement without implementation,” Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said in Brussels late Thursday. The coalition leaders in Greece had spent hours negotiating new cuts in budget before agreeing to the EU deal on Thursday. Juncker said Greece had to identify an extra 325 million euros in savings for 2012. The Greek parliament must also pass the full package of cuts and reforms on Sunday, he warned.


Lebanese army deploys more troops along Syrian border

Lebanon has reinforced its presence in the northern region of Wadi Khaled that borders Syria. It is close to the restive Syrian province of Homs. An army unit was deployed at a base in Wadi Khaled, local officials say. The military conducted patrols overnight in villages bordering Syria. Damascus in recent months has mined the border with Wadi Khaled to prevent smuggling of arms to opposition groups through illegal crossings.


Muslim Brotherhood urges Egypt’s military to sack government

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has called on military rulers to sack the current government. The Brotherhood says the military-appointed ministers have failed to maintain security and improve the economic situation. The military should appoint a Brotherhood representative prime minister, the organization’s spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan said. He added that the Brotherhood would form a new coalition government in Egypt, AP said. The influential Islamist group controls nearly 50 per cent of the seats in the new parliament.


Rio deploys army ahead of carnival as police go on strike

Firefighters and both the civil and military police have voted to go on strike in Rio de Janeiro despite legislators approving a pay rise, the newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo reports. Some 6,000 representatives of the three groups attended a meeting on Thursday. The walkout comes ahead of the world-famous Rio Carnival, which is due to start on February 18 this year. The authorities are deploying the National Guard to provide security on the streets of Rio. Firefighters and civil police have said that 30 per cent of the workforce will still be available in the event of an emergency.


Massive stash of cocaine found in Ecuador diplomatic mail

Italian police have discovered nearly 40 kg of cocaine in diplomatic mail sent from Ecuador, the Associated Press reports quoting Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patino. Two suspects have been arrested. On Thursday Patino said that Italian police had asked permission last month before opening eight crates and finding the drugs. He added that the crates had been inspected before leaving Ecuador but had traveled to Italy through a third country. Patino said that one of the arrested is Christian Loor, an Ecuadorean who obtained the Foreign Ministry’s permission to use its diplomatic mail to send objects for a theatrical production promoting Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands.