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21 March, 2012


Papua New Guinea hit by 6.7 quake

­A 6.7-magnitude earthquake has struck the eastern part of New Guinea Island. The epicenter of the tremor which struck Papua New Guinea on Thursday morning was located at a depth of almost 106 km. It struck 66 km south-east of the town of Goroka. There have been no immediate reports of damage or casualties. New Guinea Island is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire where seismic activity is frequent.


Mali soldiers mutiny at military base in capital Bamako

­Troops in the center of Mali's capital Bamako have mutinied at two military bases and cut off broadcasts at state TV and radio. Sounds of heavy gunfire have been heard in the city, and armored vehicles have sealed off the presidential palace. President Amadou Toumani Toure, however, insisted that Mali was not facing a coup attempt. The latest events follow growing discontent in the army over Tuareg rebels’ advancing in northern Mali.


Medical workers in Greece protest against austerity measures

­Doctors and staff at Greece's public hospitals are walking away from their jobs for three-hour periods in protest against austerity measures and pay delays. Physicians are demanding overtime salaries, which they say have not been paid for four months. The country is in its fifth year of recession and has made several cuts to its healthcare spending this year. Earlier today, Greece's parliament approved a second international bailout, giving the country an additional €130 billion in rescue loans.


NY police remove OWS protesters from Union Square

­New York police have removed Occupy Wall Street protesters from Union Square. At least one person was arrested after officers in riot gear moved demonstrators onto the sidewalk and barricaded the premises. Protesters had occupied the camp since Saturday after a police raid forced them out of Zuccotti Park. The activists were continuing their protest against corporate greed, which began in New York last year.


Iran’s nuclear knowledge cannot be bombed - ElBaradei to Israel

­An Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities will only encourage the Islamic republic to develop nuclear weapons, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Mohamed ElBaradei, said on Wednesday. “You can bomb their facilities, but you cannot bomb their knowledge,” he said. “If you were to bomb Iranian facilities, there would be a lesson for Iran - to develop nuclear weapons.” Israel has still not ruled out a military strike to stop Iran's nuclear research, considering the harsh economic sanctions imposed by the US and EU to be an insufficient measure. ElBaradei also said that the West needs Iran to help stabilize a region dealing with conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon.


US government scientist gets 13 years in prison for espionage

A former government space scientist has been sentenced to 13 years in a federal prison after admitting he tried to sell classified information to Israel. Dr Stewart Nozette worked for a number of government agencies, including the Department of Defense and NASA. He was arrested in a sting operation by the FBI in 2009 and charged with attempted espionage. Nozette pleaded guilty and plea bargained his sentence to 13 years behind bars.


Israel holds funerals for victims in French shooting

A rabbi and three children gunned down at a Jewish school in France were buried Wednesday in a Jerusalem cemetery. The bodies of Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his sons Arieh and Gabriel, and their schoolmate Myriam Monsenego were flown to Israel early on Wednesday. The families had asked for burial in Israel, AP said. The children held dual Israeli-French citizenship, the rabbi had lived in Israel for years. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, who attended the ceremony, said France was committed to fighting terrorism.


Parcel bomb explodes near Indonesian embassy in Paris

No one has been injured after explosion outside the Indonesian embassy in Paris on Wednesday. According to witnesses, three men left a package near the building before the homemade bomb exploded, AFP said. Police say the bomb could have contained “several kilos of explosives.” Nobody has claimed responsibility so far. Officials in Jakarta said there were no plans to close the embassy in France.


Mauritania to hand over ex-spy chief to Libyan government

Mauritania will hand over Libya's former intelligence chief to Tripoli for trial, a Libyan government spokesman said on Wednesday. Nasser al-Manei said the government of the West African nation will return Abdullah al-Senoussi to undergo “a fair process” in Libya, AP reports. Al-Senoussi was detained on Saturday in Mauritania. Senoussi is accused of attacking civilians during the uprising in Libya last year and of the bombing of a French airliner in 1989. He is being prosecuted by the International Criminal Court, France and Libya.


UN Security Council agrees to back Annan’s Syria plan

An agreement has been reached on a UN Security Council statement backing envoy Kofi Annan's efforts to end the Syria crisis, diplomats said on Wednesday. The nonbinding statement calls for a cease-fire in Syria. The plan also envisages opening conflict areas to humanitarian aid. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov earlier said the council’s member states “succeeded in reaching consensus on supporting actions and proposals” put forth by the UN and Arab League special envoy.


Rocket attack hits market in central Afghanistan

At least three Afghan civilians have been reportedly killed and 17 others wounded in a rocket attack in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province. The Taliban fired three rockets at the governor’s office, Moghor’s Governor Sahib Khan said, as cited by Press TV. One of the rockets struck the city’s market. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.


De Niro says no offense in ‘white first lady’ joke

Robert De Niro said on Wednesday he meant no offense when he joked that America might not be ready for a white first lady. The actor said he was speaking “with satirical jest” at Monday's presidential fundraiser in New York featuring Michelle Obama. The remarks “were not meant to offend or embarrass anyone,” he noted. Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, however, slammed the jest. Speaking on behalf of candidates’ wives, he said the country was ready for a new first lady. “He doesn’t have to describe it in racial terms,” Gingrich said, referring to De Niro’s remarks.


Turkey negotiating US waivers on Iran sanctions

Turkey's energy minister has said negotiations are under way to earn waivers from US sanctions on crude oil imports from neighboring Iran. Talks are being conducted at the level of companies, Taner Yildiz said on Wednesday. The Obama administration on Tuesday exempted 10 European Union countries and Japan from US economic sanctions for reducing dependence on oil from Tehran. Ankara depends on natural gas and oil imports from Iran. “The fact that Turkey is not on the list does not mean that it will never be there,” Yildiz said, as cited by AFP.


Legendary Italian screenwriter Tonino Guerra dies

Italian poet, writer and screenwriter Tonino Guerra has died in Italy on Wednesday at the age of 92. He wrote more than 100 screenplays and worked with filmmakers Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, Andrey Tarkovsky, Francesco Rosi and Theodoros Angelopoulos. Guerra won Cannes Film Festival's Best Screenplay award for the Voyage to Cythera by Theo Angelopoulos and received an honorary award of the Venice Film Festival. He also earned Oscar nominations for the Casanova 70, Blow-Up by Antonioni and Amarcord by Fellini.


Russia mulls creation of armed forces cyber command

The Russian leadership is considering creating a cyber command for the armed forces, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has said. The issue concerns the information security of the armed forces and the state’s whole infrastructure, he said on Wednesday. Rogozin noted that the US and NATO allocate huge budgets for such purposes. Russia will also create soon a fund of advanced defense studies similar to the US’s DARPA, he said.


Somali pirates free British hostage Tebbutt

Somali pirates have freed British hostage Judith Tebbutt, witnesses and officials said on Wednesday. She was kidnapped in neighboring Kenya last September. “We have succeeded in the release of the British woman,” Reuters quoted Omar Mohammed Diirey, a regional administration official from Adado in central Somalia, as saying. “She just left from Adado airport to Nairobi,” the official said. Tebbutt was kidnapped by Somali gunmen from a beach resort north of the coastal city of Lamu. They killed her husband, David Tebbutt, during the attack.


Ex-rebel chief detained in Niger on suspected Al-Qaeda link

Authorities in Niger have arrested former Tuareg rebel leader Aghali Alambo for alleged arms smuggling and links to Al-Qaeda's North Africa wing. Alambo led Niger's last rebellion between 2007 and 2009. It ended after the mediation of Libya's late leader. Alambo was arrested after investigations that followed the June 2011 seizure in Niger of weapons and explosives smuggled out of Libya, Reuters quoted a police source as saying. Alambo will be questioned on charges of ties to criminal groups, financing terrorism and arms trafficking.


Al-Qaeda front group claims responsibility for Iraq attacks

Al-Qaeda’s front group in Iraq has claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s wave of attacks that killed 46 people in eight cities. The Islamic State of Iraq posted a statement on Wednesday on a militant website. It says the group wanted to prove how weak the Iraqi government's security plans are ahead of next week's Arab League meeting in Baghdad, AP reports. The militants say they targeted the plan of the “fool government preparing” for the summit. The Arab leaders’ meeting scheduled for next week is the first in Iraq in a generation.


Russian court turns down prosecutor's appeal in Bhagavad Gita case

A Tomsk court turned down a prosecutor's appeal on Wednesday to recognize the Russian translation of The Bhagavad Gita As It Is as extremist, RIA Novosti said. The ruling ends a long legal battle over the text. Tomsk prosecutors initiated a case to impose a ban on the Russian translation of the book in summer 2011, claiming that the text promotes extremism. After the Tomsk District Court ruled against the prosecutors' request in December 2011, the city prosecutor's office challenged the ruling. The President of the Association of Indians in Russia Sanjeet Kumar Jha welcomed the decision to turn down the appeal and thanked Russian scientists who stood up for the book.


Israel to repatriate South Sudanese

Israel is preparing to expel more than 700 South Sudanese nationals this month. The decision was made earlier this year, following the establishment of the independent state of South Sudan last July. Those who leave voluntarily will be given plane tickets and $1,300, AP reports. So far, 50 people have reportedly applied to leave. The UN asked Israel to allow South Sudanese to individually petition to stay in Israel. About 50,000 Africans have entered the country since 2005. More than 300,000 South Sudanese were displaced due to internal violence last year.


Iraq locks down key routes in Baghdad after deadly attacks

Iraq has toughened security measures following Tuesday’s deadly bombings and in the run-up to an Arab League summit due next week. Security forces on Wednesday locked down key routes in Baghdad. A city-wide curfew could be imposed on March 29 when Arab leaders are expected in Baghdad. The authorities have drafted in an additional 4,000-odd policemen and soldiers to maintain security for the summit, AFP reports. On Tuesday, a wave of gun and bomb attacks across the country killed 46 people and left 255 others wounded.


French Jewish school attack: Bodies of deceased flown to Israel for burial

The bodies of three children and a rabbi gunned down at a Jewish school in Toulouse were flown to Israel on Wednesday for burial. The bodies of Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his sons Gabriel, three, and Arieh, five, and Myriam Monsenego, the eight-year-old daughter of the school's principal, were accompanied by relatives, officials of the French Jewish community and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe. Memorial prayers were read before four ambulances transported the bodies to a Jerusalem cemetery, AP said. French police exchanged fire and were negotiating on Wednesday with a gunman suspected of Monday's killing at the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse.


Pilot survives as US F-16 fighter jet crashes in S. Korea

An F-16 fighter jet has crashed in central South Korea, its pilot ejected safely, the US Air Force said. The crash took place around noon Wednesday, the 51st Fighter Wing said in a statement. It is not clear if the crashed plane had been flying as part of training. South Korean local government officials said the plane crashed into a rice paddy, AP reports.


French police raid house for suspect in Toulouse shootings

French police officers on Wednesday exchanged gunfire with a man who claims connections to Al-Qaeda and is suspected of killing four people in a Jewish school and three paratroopers in southern France. Three police officers were injured in the shoot-out, French Interior Minister Claude Gueant said. According to Gueant, the suspect is 24 years old and a French national. He reportedly wants “to take revenge for Palestinian children killed in the Middle East” and “to attack the French army.” Police are negotiating with the suspect. His mother was brought to the scene, but she says she has little influence on him. The man’s brother was arrested.


US exempts 11 nations from Iran sanctions

­The United States has exempted 10 European nations and Japan from its sanctions against Iran given their significant efforts to reduce their consumption of Iranian oil, Reuters reports. However, China and India, the top consumers of Iranian crude oil, were not included on the list, nor were Washington allies South Korea and Turkey. Under the sanctions designed to put more pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program, the US threatened to cut any nations dealing with Iran from its financial system. The 10 countries from the European Union, which has itself already decided to stop importing Iranian oil from July, were Belgium, Britain, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain.


Putin assassination suspects charged with terrorism

Two men suspected of plotting the assassination of Russian PM and president-elect Vladimir Putin have been charged with terrorism, the Kommersant newspaper reports. Adam Osmaev and Ilya Pyanzin, who were arrested in February in the Ukrainian city of Odessa, are accused of creating a terror group in order to target Russia’s top officials, including Putin. Ukrainian investigators say the attacks were designed to destabilize the situation in Russia and spread fear and panic among its population. Russia’s most-wanted terrorist Doku Umarov is thought to have been behind the plot. The suspects in the case will be tried in Ukraine.