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16 April, 2012


Another US candidate becomes head of World Bank

­An American has once again become head of the World Bank, despite calls for the holder of the organization's job to better-reflect today's economic reality. Korean-born Jim Yong Kim is a health expert and has been serving as President of the Ivy League Dartmouth College. Candidates from the world's fastest-growing economies have been seeking to break Washington's hold on the post in order to reflect their increased role in global finance.


Six-story building collapses in Moscow

A six-story apartment building under construction collapsed in the Russian capital early Tuesday morning, RIA Novosti reports. Eight people have been rescued from the wreckage and taken to hospital. Sixteen people are believed to have been present at the construction site, authorities say. Rescue workers are searching for missing people. The unfinished building in southern Moscow was completely destroyed, though no cause for the accident has been stated.


Guinea-Bissau presidential candidate denounces coup

­The second-place finisher in the Guinea-Bissau's presidential election on Monday denounced last week's military coup, AP reports. Kumba Yala, a former president who was himself overthrown in a 2003, issued a statement along with four other ex-candidates, saying they all "strongly condemn all forms of taking power by force." Military leaders in the West African state announced a National Transitional Council following a meeting with political parties. Soldiers wrested control from the nation's interim government four days ago, over plans to reduce the size of the country's influential army. Coups have been common in Guinea-Bissau since it won independence from Portugal in 1974.


Nobel laureate Gunter Grass hospitalized

Prominent German writer Gunter Grass, who was recently brought into the spotlight over criticism of Israel’s nuclear weapons program, has been hospitalized with heart problems. Grass was admitted to hospital in Hamburg on Monday. The 84-year-old Nobel laureate published the poem “What Must Be Said,” in which he criticized what he called Western hypocrisy over Israel's nuclear program, and labeled the country a threat to an "already fragile world peace'' over its stance towards Iran. The move sparked an outcry from Tel Aviv, which announced him "persona non grata" on Israeli territory.


Attorney asks for new judge in Trayvon Martin murder case

­George Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara requested a new judge in the Trayvon Martin case on Monday. Judge Jessica Reckseidler, who is currently assigned to the case, revealed she may have a conflict of interest. Her husband is affiliated with lawyer Mark NeJame, who has been hired by CNN to provide analysis on the case. A Florida neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder after shooting unarmed African American teenager Trayvon Martin. The incident happened in a gated community in Sanford, Florida on February 26, but Zimmerman's arrest came nearly six weeks later. The delay sparked nationwide protests.


Sudanese parliament brands neighboring South Sudan's government an enemy

The Sudanese parliament has voted unanimously to declare the government of South Sudan an enemy after southern troops invaded the north's main oilfield. The vote came as South Sudan accused Khartoum of renewed airstrikes that killed 10 civilians and hit a United Nations peacekeeping camp. It marked a week of the most severe border fighting since South Sudan separated from Sudan last July.


Croatia ex-PM Sanader pleads not guilty to corruption charges

­During Croatia's “trial of the century,” which began Monday, former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader pleaded not guilty to charges of abuse of power and corruption. Between 2003 and 2009, Sanader's ruling Croatian Democratic Union party allegedly stole nearly 10 million euro in public funds through a dummy media company. Prosecutors say Sanader earned at least two million euro through the scheme, and some of the funds are believed to have been used for presidential and parliamentary election campaigns. Sanader was arrested on an international warrant in Austria in 2010 and extradited to Croatia in July 2011. The corruption scandal is considered to be the biggest since the country became independent in 1991.


Iran ready to make nuclear concessions if sanctions lifted

­All nuclear issues could be resolved during the next round of P5+1 talks in Baghdad – if the West takes “confidence-building measures” and lifts its sanctions, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told Iranian news agency ISNA in an interview. “It can speed up the process of negotiations, reaching results,” Salehi said. "If there is goodwill, one can pass through this process very easily and we are ready to resolve all issues very quickly and simply.” Iran is currently under four sets of UN sanctions over its controversial nuclear program. The US and EU have also slapped the Islamic Republic with their own sets of sanctions, targeting the country’s financial markets and oil industry. Nuclear talks between Iran and six major world powers resumed on April 14. The latest meeting, in Turkey, was described as generally successful by the majority of participants. The next round of talks is scheduled for May 23, in Baghdad.


UN Security Council condemns North Korea's rocket launch

The UN Security Council agreed on Monday to issue a statement that "strongly condemns" North Korea's rocket launch. It also urges tightening of existing UN sanctions, Reuters said, citing diplomats. Further action could follow if Pyongyang conducts another nuclear test. China has reportedly agreed to back the council’s statement. North Korea’s long-range rocket failed to deliver a satellite into orbit on Friday, as it crashed into the sea a few minutes after launch.


Four injured in Virgin Atlantic emergency landing at London's Gatwick

Four people suffered minor injuries after an Airbus A330 bound for Florida made an emergency landing at London’s Gatwick Airport. All the passengers and crew safely disembarked the plane using the emergency exits. The airline blamed the cause of the emergency on a “technical problem.” Fire officials said there were reports of a small fire on the plane, AP reports. The plane took off from Gatwick at 10:48 (0948 GMT) and landed two hours later. The airport reopened after being shut down for more than an hour and a half.


UN chief says Syria must allow observers full access

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday the Syrian government is responsible for guaranteeing freedom of movement for UN observers monitoring the ceasefire. He called on the Syrian regime to ensure the observers are not impeded in any way in their mission in the country, AP reports. An advance team of six observers arrived in Damascus on Sunday.


Obama campaign raises $53 million in March

US President Barack Obama raised $53 million for his campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and other campaign funds in March. He has collected nearly $350 million since the start of the campaign last year, AP reports. The president raised about $127 million since the beginning of 2012, his campaign said. Republicans note that Obama's fundraising efforts this year are slightly behind the $136 million his campaign raised during the first three months of 2008.


Moscow demands explanations over two Russians' arrest in Iran

Moscow demands explanations from Iran over the arrest of two Russian citizens in Tehran, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday. The two men, identified as A. Kaisin and A. Romanenko, had worked on a contract with the Kazakh-Iranian company Zar-Kuh. They were released on April 15 “thanks to insistent efforts of the Russian embassy,” the ministry said. The two Russians are staying at a hotel in Tehran. “Their physical condition is unsatisfactory,” the ministry said, adding that it expects “profound explanations from the Iranian authorities.”


Pope Benedict XVI turns 85

Pope Benedict XVI celebrated his 85th birthday on Monday with visitors from his native German state of Bavaria. The Pope began the day with mass in the Pauline Chapel in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace along with his 88-year-old brother Georg Ratzinger, himself a bishop, AFP said. On Thursday Benedict also celebrates the seventh anniversary of his election as pope. On April 24, he will mark the anniversary of the start of his pontificate.


Karzai calls Taliban offensive failure by intelligence, NATO

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Monday that the latest Taliban offensive in Kabul and the provinces showed a “failure” by the intelligence services and by NATO. The terrorists’ infiltration is an “intelligence failure for us and especially for NATO and should be seriously investigated,” Karzai said in a statement. But he added that Afghan security forces proved that they “can defend their country successfully,” he added. The attacks on Sunday and overnight killed 11 members of the security forces and four civilians, wounding 32 civilians and around 42 security personnel, according to Karzai.


Russian Justice Ministry says Katyn case termination classified ‘legally’

The decision to terminate the Katyn case was classified in accordance with Russian national legislation, the country’s Justice Ministry said on Monday. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled earlier in the day there were no grounds to classify the document. The court also said Russia did not want to acknowledge the Katyn execution as a fact and called it a deliberate attempt to “obscure the circumstances” of the shootings that took place in 1940.


Gunmen kill 4 Shiite farmers near Baghdad – officials

Gunmen have shot dead four Shiite farmers working in an orchard just north of Baghdad, Iraqi officials have said. Two carloads of attackers opened fire on Monday on the farmers pollinating date trees in the predominantly Sunni village of Rashidiyah, AP reports. Four other farmers were wounded in the attack, a hospital official said.


Hundreds of Pakistan prisoners at large after jailbreak

Fifty-three prisoners who fled a jail in northwestern Pakistan after militants attacked it have returned voluntarily, but hundreds remained at large on Monday. Police arrested 11 others out of the total 384, senior police official Iftikhar Khan told AFP. Most of those who escaped were militants, including 34 condemned prisoners. More than 150 Islamists stormed the prison outside the restive town of Bannu near the lawless tribal region on Sunday.


Israel bars foreign pro-Palestinian activists

Israel has barred nearly 80 foreigners from flying into the country. Police explained on Monday the activists were linked to a pro-Palestinian campaign, AFP reports. About 60 foreign activists are awaiting deportation. Police detained 78 people, mostly French nationals, at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv as of midnight. There are also 11 Britons, six Italians, five Canadians and two Spanish nationals among those detained. Three others are from Switzerland, Portugal and the US.


European Court says Katyn massacre ‘war crime,’ won’t assess probe

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has called the mass execution of Polish nationals in the Katyn Forest by the Soviet secret police (NKVD) in 1940 a “war crime.” Such crimes have no period of limitation, the court said in its judgment on Monday. At the same time, the ECHR did not find any evidence that could oblige the Russian authorities to resume an investigation, Itar-Tass reports. The court also said it was beyond its jurisdiction to assess Russia’s investigation conducted in 1990-2004. Last year, relatives of those executed filed two lawsuits against Russia for closing the case related to the executions in Katyn, and Tver and Kharkiv prisons in 1940.


Russia breaks wheat export record with 18.5 mln tonnes

Russia has broken its all-time record for wheat exports, sending 18.5 million tonnes of the grain abroad between July 1, 2011 and April 15, 2012, Interfax reports. The previous all-time record, reached during the 2009-2010 agricultural year, was 18.275 million tonnes, said Dmitry Rylko, General Director of the Institute for Agricultural Market Studies. Russia's main wheat importers are North Africa, the Middle East and Turkey.


Sudan bombs UN peacekeepers' camp in South Sudan

Sudanese warplanes have bombed a UN peacekeepers' camp in the border regions of South Sudan, but no one was injured in the bombing, AFP reports. The attack hit a camp in Mayom, in the South's oil-producing frontline Unity state on Sunday evening. The state's information minister, Gideon Gatpan, said on Monday that bombing raids elsewhere killed nine civilians.


Israeli military suspend officer for striking protester

The Israeli army has suspended a senior officer who struck a pro-Palestinian protester in the face with a gun. Lieutenant-Colonel Shalom Eisner was suspended after a video of the incident was put on the Internet. It showed him holding an M-16 rifle and shouting at demonstrators taking part in a bicycle rally in the occupied West Bank on Saturday. The officer suddenly struck a Danish national in the face with the gun, Reuters reports. The protester, named as Andreas Ias, fell to the ground and was carried away by activists. He was treated for light injuries and said on Monday that he was well. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the officer's actions.


Iran could discuss ‘level of uranium enrichment’

Tehran will not give up its right to enrich uranium, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Monday. But he added that enrichment covers a wide range, from natural uranium to 100 per cent enrichment. “So one can talk within this spectrum,” he told Jam-e Jam television, as cited by AFP. Tehran and world powers agreed in Istanbul on Saturday to hold a more in-depth meeting in Baghdad on May 23. It is too soon to talk about the enrichment issue, Salehi said, adding that it is up to the Baghdad meeting.


UN advance team arrives in Damascus to monitor ceasefire

The first six UN observers have arrived in Damascus to monitor Syria's ceasefire. Ahmad Fawzi, the spokesman of international envoy Kofi Annan said on Monday that the advance team is led by Moroccan Colonel Ahmed Himmiche. The remaining 25 observers are expected to arrive days from now, AP reports. The mission will set up operating headquarters in Syria and reach out to the government and opposition. The level of violence has dropped during the four-day-old ceasefire. But the opposition say Syrian troops are shelling neighborhoods in Homs.


Three blasts hit capital of North Caucasus’ Dagestan

A moving car exploded in Makhachkala, the capital of the North Caucasus Republic of Dagestan, on Monday morning. The driver was thrown out of the vehicle by the blast, eye-witnesses said. His condition is unknown. Earlier in the day, one person died in an explosion outside a house in the same avenue, Interfax reported. The republic’s Interior Ministry also said that a woman was wounded when a bomb went off in the center of Makhachkala on Sunday night.


Obama calls for ‘rigorous’ investigation of Secret Service prostitute claims

­US President Barack Obama called for rigorous investigation into alleged misconduct by eleven Secret Service members responsible for his security during the Americas summit in Colombia. Speaking at a news conferences at the end of the summit, Obama said he would be angry if the allegations turned out to be true.


As many as 300 feared trapped under debris in India

­Up to 300 people are feared to be trapped under the debris of a collapsed blanket factoryin the city of Jalandhar, India, police told the Times of India. Eye witnesses say the building collapsed after an explosion in the boiler room. Police say efforts to rescue the trapped people are now underway.


US 'not giving anything away' by agreeing to talks with Iran - Obama

­US President Barack Obama said his government was not giving “anything away” by holding a new series of talks with Iran, and that he was making sure the negotiations were not turning into a “stalling process.” Obama’s speech, at a news conference concluding the Summit of the Americas in Colombia, was a direct response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statement that the US had given Iran a “freebie” by agreeing to hold more talks. Some Western powers suspect that Tehran is harboring a nuclear weapons program.