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25 February, 2012

23:10

Israel and Gaza exchange fire

­Israeli fighter jets have stuck the Palestinian town of Rafah on Saturday night shortly after Gaza militants fired several projectiles into southern Israel. Witnesses say the Israeli warplanes fired two air-to-ground missiles at a cement storage facility on the outskirts of the town, Xinhua news agency reports. The strike caused severe damages but no injuries according to medical officials. No damages or casualties were reported in Israel.

22:41

German minister suggests Greece leaves eurozone

­Germany’s interior minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich, has spoken in favor of Greece leaving the eurozone in order to raise its chances of regenerating and becoming competitive, AFP reports. “I do not mean that Greece should be kicked out of the 17-nation eurozone,” Friedrich said in an interview with news magazine Der Spiegel, "but to create incentives for an exit that they cannot turn down. Outside the European monetary union Greece's chances of regenerating itself and become competitive are definitely bigger than if it remains inside the eurozone," he said.

21:35

Islamists win outright majority in Egypt’s upper house

Islamist parties have gained almost 85 per cent of the seats in Egypt’s Shura Council, the upper chamber of parliament, according to official figures released by the head of Central Election Commission on Saturday. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party secured 106 of the 180 seats, while the Salafist al-Nour party gained 46 seats. This Islamists already dominate the lower house, the National Assembly. The Muslim Brotherhood, which was banned under the Mubarak rule, gained 47 per cent of the seats there.

19:00

Hamas denies rupture of diplomatic relations with Syria

­Hamas leaders have now left Syria but they are not going to officially cut ties with Assad’s government, Hamas leader Salah al-Bardaweel told Xinhua news agency.
He said that top Hamas leaders are now in “Arab countries.” However, al-Bardaweel said that criticism of violence against civilians does not mean the rupture of diplomatic relations with Syria. Salah al-Bardaweel stressed that it is too early to say that Hamas and Assad had chosen different paths. He pointed out that since the violence began in Syria, Hamas has always called for the Syrian government to avoid the use of weapons. It also was against any foreign intervention into the country’s interior affairs.

18:37

­Pakistan begins demolition of Bin Laden compound

Security forces in Pakistan have begun demolishing the compound where Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was shot dead last May. Bulldozers have arrived at the compound and have already begun knocking down the outer walls. According to reports, the building is a sore spot for Pakistan officials as it serves as a constant reminder of the unilateral special operation the US put together to take out Bin Laden. US forces killed the world's most wanted terrorist and four of his allies in the city of Abbottabad, north-west of the country's capital, Islamabad.

18:18

US denies Taliban claims of downing drone

­A suspected US drone has reportedly been shot down by Taliban militants in Pakistan on Saturday. However, an unnamed US official has denied the claims while refusing to comment further, Reuters reports. Earlier, Pakistani intelligence officials said that a drone had been seen going down in the Taliban-controlled Machikhel region of Pakistan. Taliban militants claimed they had collected the wreckage and would publish its photos on Sunday.

16:39

­US Air Force base in Kyrgyzstan must close to rule out Iran strike – Kyrgyz president

President Atanbayev of Kyrgyzstan has said the US Air Force base in his country must close down after 2014. The president made the statement, explaining that if there is a military conflict between the US and Iran, the latter may strike at the US base in Kyrgyzstan. Atanbayev also said that he will not allow the base to be used against Iran and that the base, which is located at a civilian airport, will be demilitarized after all existing contracts run out. Earlier, reports surfaced that NATO was allegedly considering the use of the US Air Force base in Kyrgyzstan in the event of a possible military conflict with Iran. The information was later denied by the US ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul. The base at Manas was opened in late 2001 after the US launched its operation in Afghanistan. At present, it accommodates about 1,200 US soldiers. According to Pentagon statistics, the base handles up to 15,000 coalition servicemen and 500 tons of cargo a month.

15:02

­Nineteenth century shipwreck treasure returns to Spain

Military planes carrying tonnes of treasure lost with a Spanish battleship in the early 1800s have landed in Spain. The pricey find - 17 tonnes of gold and silver coins - has completed a 200 year odyssey, traveling from Spain to Portugal - then to a Florida courtroom, where it was indisputably proven to belong to Spain, and finally back home. The planes landed with the 594,000 coins and other artifacts, retrieved after a five-year legal wrangle with the Florida-based salvage company Odyssey Marine Exploration, which had taken the haul to the US in May 2007. Odyssey made international headlines when it discovered the wreck, estimating the trove to be worth as much as $500 million to collectors, making the haul one of the richest ever. International treaties say that warships sunk in battle are protected from treasure seekers and the Spanish government successfully argued that it had never relinquished ownership of the ship or its contents.

14:26

Italian court closes Berlusconi corruption case

­An Italian court has ruled on Saturday that the statute of limitations has run out in a corruption case against Italy’s former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi was accused of bribing British lawyer David Mills $600,000 to lie during two trials over his business dealings in the 1990s. Milanese prosecutors demanded a five-year sentence. Berlusconi has faced dozens of trials, but has never been convicted, as most of his charges expired under the statute of limitations.

11:34

Tymoshenko case may be reconsidered

­Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has said the case of the country’s former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko could be reconsidered after the adoption of a new criminal procedure code.
The announcement came in an interview with three Ukrainian TV channels, shown on Friday, February 24. The draft code, which meets European standards, has already been submitted to the country’s parliament and is expected to be adopted in March. Yanukovich therefore also admitted that Tymoshenko’s case, along with some others, have not been considered in accordance with the European standards. But he said Tymoshenko made a mistake choosing “a political way of defense” at the process. The president did not rule out a possible pardon of the ex-head of government, but stressed she should apply for it herself.

10:58

South African ex-President Nelson Mandela admitted to hospital

­The South African government confirms former President Nelson Mandela has been admitted to hospital with an abdominal complaint. "Madiba has had a long-standing abdominal complaint and doctors feel it needs proper specialist medical attention," a statement from the presidency said. The 93-year-old anti-apartheid leader and South Africa's first black president is widely known as Madiba. He spent several days at hospital just over a year ago with respiratory problems. Since then he has not appeared in public.

10:52

Yemen’s new president inaugurated

­Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi has taken the oath of office after his landslide victory in the Yemeni presidential election. The former vice-president pledged to preserve the country’s unity, independence and territorial integrity in a televised address.

Hadi succeeds Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down after 10 months of violent public protests in a power sharing deal. The sole candidate in the poll received 99.8 per cent of the votes.

10:49

Police say at least 12 killed, five hurt in attack on northeast Nigerian city

­Police report an attack on a police station in Nigeria’s northeastern city of Gombe has killed at least 12 people and wounded five others. The attack on the prison did not free any prisoners. The same city was previously targeted by a radical Islamist sect, Boko Haram. People fled the violence as gunfire rang out throughout the city. Authorities made no arrests and said that they had no immediate suspects.

10:45

Bus crash kills at least 15 in China

­At least 15 people have died after tourist bus carrying 33 crashed off a highway and plunged into a ravine in northern China, reports Xinhua news agency.

10:34

Roadside bomb kills 6 Afghan soldiers

­Officials say six Afghan have soldiers died and 16 more have been wounded while trying to defuse roadside bomb.

08:23

NY judge moves Viktor Bout from solitary confinement

­Viktor Bout, a Russian businessman who was found guilty of attempting to sell weapons to a terrorist organization in November 2011 will be let out of solitary confinement for the first time in 15 months per ruling by a US judge. Judge Shira Scheindlin, who is due to sentence Bout next month, said that keeping him in harsh conditions in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan violated his constitutional rights.

07:16

N. Korea threatens US and South Korea with “sacred war”

­North Korea has threatened to stage a "sacred war" over US-South Korean annual joint military exercises next week, denouncing the drill as a "silent declaration of war," reports Agence France Press. The National Defense Commission of North Korea on Saturday described the exercise as "unpardonable war hysteria" and said its army and people would "foil" the US and South Korean moves with "a sacred war of our own style." The US and South Korea conducted live-fire military exercises near the latter’s disputed naval border with North Korea on February 20 and are to continue on February 27. Last week Pyongyang vowed "merciless retaliatory strikes" if any shells landed in waters near the disputed Yellow Sea border.

03:03

Chavez goes to Cuba for further cancer surgery

Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez has departed for Cuba to have another operation to remove a tumor from the same area of the pelvis where he had cancer surgery last year. He bid an emotional farewell and vowed to return for victory in the October elections. "With or without cancer, with or without water, rain or shine, no one can stop us from achieving a big patriotic victory next October 7th," he said. Despite his claiming full recovery after last summer’s operation the new tumor is likely to be malignant. “I will fight for my life,” the president said before departing for the airport.

01:00

Hamas turns against Syrian regime

The Islamist militant group Hamas has publicly voiced support for the Syrian uprising aimed at overthrowing the group’s longtime ally, President Bashar Assad, Reuters reports. The Syrian regime is thus losing one of its few remaining Sunni Muslim supporters in the Arab world. Syrian-backed Hamas has been equivocating on the issue since the anti-government protests started in Syria last March. "I salute all the nations of the Arab Spring and I salute the heroic people of Syria, who are striving for freedom, democracy and reform," Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said speaking at  the al-Azhar Mosque in the Egyptian capital.