Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas confirmed that his government will formally present its bid for non-member observer status at the United Nations on November 29, Al Arabiya reports. Palestine is currently a "permanent observer" at the UN, and an upgrade in its status will require a majority of votes in favor at the UN General Assembly – where at least 132 member states are reportedly ready to pass the measure. Non-member observer status would enable Palestinian representatives to serve on various UN and international bodies, and would allow its officials to challenge Israeli incursions on its land at the International Criminal Court. The US blocked Palestine's September 2011 bid for recognition as an independent state.
A strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Alaska early Monday, the US Geological Survey says. The epicenter of the quake was located at a depth of 55 km, 289 km southwest of the town of Yukatat. No tsunami threat has been issued, and there is no word of casualties or destruction.
The newly formed Syrian opposition coalition has been recognized by the Gulf Cooperation Council as a “legitimate representative of the brotherly Syrian people,” the GCC secretary general declared Monday. The states include Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain. The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces emerged this Sunday after a Doha, Qatar meeting of Syrian opposition groups. Earlier, several NATO states, such as the US, the UK, France and Turkey, welcomed the coalition’s course to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The remains of two of the 2010 Smolensk air crash disaster victims have been exhumed over concerns of an accidental exchange, Poland’s Military Prosecutor Andrzej Wicharski said. The mistake was made by the Russian side, Wicharski stated. According to Polish media, the misidentified bodies were that of two priests. Earlier this year, two series of exhumations were carried out in Poland. The misidentification of all these bodies had been attributed to relatives and friends. The Smolensk plane crash took place on April 10, 2010 and killed 96 people, including Polish President Lech Kaczynski.
The Iraqi government said on Monday Baghdad will reconsider plans to buy more than $4 billion in arms from Russia. The government has not yet signed the deal, “but this process is continuing,” Interfax quoted government spokesperson Ali al-Dabbah as saying. Iraq is interested in the deal, but its conditions will be changed to quash “corruption rumors,” he said. Iraqi media earlier alleged that some of those involved in brokering the deal demanded kickbacks.
A draft of the review by Greece’s ‘Troika’ of creditors for the country’s bailout program estimates that Athens may need an extra 15 billion euro in 2014, media reports said. The country may also need another 17.6 billion euro in 2015 and 2016, according to provisional estimates. A two-year extension of Greece’s bailout program could ease the impact of the painful austerity measures demanded by the Troika and imposed by Athens.
NATO will defend its member-state Turkey, the alliance's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Monday. Ankara remains concerned about security along its border with Syria: “NATO as an organization will do what it takes to protect and defend Turkey, our ally,” Rasmussen said in Prague. “We have all plans in place to make sure that we can protect and defend Turkey and hopefully that way also deter so that attacks on Turkey will not take place.” The NATO chief did not speak on the rumored deployment of Patriot surface-to-air missiles to guard Turkey.
Pakistani Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani condemned what Islamabad called a cross-border shelling by Afghan forces, which killed five civilians. Jilani met with Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Mohammad Umar Daudzai on Monday, the AP reported. The attack occurred Sunday evening in the border village of Neiznarai, in the South Waziristan tribal area, Pakistani intelligence officials said. Mortar rounds reportedly landed outside a home, killing five people. The Afghan government has not commented on the incident.
Muslim radical preacher Abu Qatada on Monday won his appeal against deportation from Britain to Jordan, where he would face terrorism charges. The Special Immigration Appeals Commission blocked Qatada’s deportation, the AP said. The commission said it was not convinced by the government's assurances that evidence obtained through torture would not be used against him in Jordan. Home Office officials “strongly disagreed” with the ruling on the man believed to be a top Al-Qaeda operative.
The Egyptian government said Monday that Cairo could sign a memorandum of understanding with the International Monetary Fund this week for a $4.8 billion loan. The IMF negotiating team leaves Cairo on Wednesday. Meanwhile, 17 political parties and civil and labor organizations criticized the IMF talks as secretive and lacking popular support. A statement by the Popular Campaign to Drop Egypt’s Debt argued that talks should be frozen, in the absence of parliamentary and public consultations.
Muammar Gaddafi's last prime minister’s trial for embezzlement charges has been postponed until December 10, a spokesperson for Libya's prosecutor general said on Monday. Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi appeared in a Tripoli court on Monday for the opening session of his trial, but his defense was granted more time to prepare, the AP said. Al-Mahmoudi fled to Tunisia in September 2011, but was extradited to Libya after eight months in detention.
The US is projected to become the largest global producer of oil before 2020, exceeding Saudi Arabia, according to the new World Energy Outlook, a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The country currently imports around 20 percent of its total energy needs, but thanks to rising production of oil, shale gas and bioenergy, North America may become a net oil exporter by around 2030, the report said.
Moscow is hopeful the unified Syrian opposition will make efforts to peacefully settle the country’s ongoing conflict, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said on Monday. Russia is calling on all parties involved to broker a settlement “without foreign interference, through a dialogue and negotiations,” he wrote on the ministry’s website. Moscow will remain in contact with both the Syrian government and opposition forces to “encourage this constructive attitude,” he said.
An Italian prosecutor on Monday filed charges of market manipulation against Standard & Poor's and Fitch ratings agencies for recent downgrades to Italy's credit rating. “We have filed charges against Standard & Poor's and Fitch,” AFP quoted Prosecutor Michele Ruggiero as saying. The charges were filed against seven people, five of whom worked at Standard & Poor's and two at Fitch at the time of the alleged wrongdoing.
Next week, Berlin will decide the next phase of the withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan, German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Monday. The withdrawal would be conducted in a way that is “responsible and reliable for all our partners,” the AP quoted the minister as saying. De Maiziere made the remarks after a meeting with his Afghan counterpart, Bismullah Khan Mohammadi. Berlin will also coordinate with its NATO partners and Kabul on what kind of military equipment to leave behind for Afghan forces. Germany currently has 4,760 troops in Afghanistan as part of the NATO coalition.
The Russian government is not planning to expand its interventions into the grain market that began in October in the European regions of the country, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said. He made the announcement during Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's meeting with deputy prime ministers on Monday. “A complicated situation could develop next spring,” Interfax quoted Dvorkovich as saying. He added that for now, the situation with harvest forecasts remained unclear. Russia earlier started intervention in the domestic grain market to curb prices and control exports.
The BBC announced Monday that its news chief and her deputy have “stepped aside.” Helen Boaden, the BBC's director of news and current affairs and Steve Mitchell both handed over their responsibilities to others. The move followed the fallout of a child abuse scandal that forced the broadcaster’s director-general to resign. The BBC's governing body confirmed earlier that George Entwistle would receive a severance payout of 450,000 pounds ($715,000).
A Syrian fighter jet has reportedly bombed an area close to the Turkish border, injuring several. On Monday, the plane bombed an area around Ras al-Ayn, some 10 meters from the Turkish border, the AP reported. Several injured people were carried by Turkish ambulances to a hospital in Ceylanpinar in southeastern Turkey, local officials said. Shop windows in the town were shattered by the attack.
Iran has begun large-scale air defense drills, dubbed ‘Velayat-4,’ in eight of country’s eastern provinces. About 8,000 servicemembers, including troops from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are reportedly taking part in the maneuvers. State news agency IRNA said the exercise will involve tests of the country’s entire air defense network, including various electronic surveillance systems, bombers, fighter jets, flying tankers and air defense missile complexes. The previous drills, ‘Velayat-3,’ were held in 2011.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai met with Indian leaders Monday in a bid to woo investment in his country and boost security before the planned withdrawal of NATO troops in 2014. New Delhi hopes to gain further influence in post-2014 Afghanistan. India has invested more than $2.3 billion in Afghan infrastructure, the AP reported. Afghanistan and India are also expected to review a strategic partnership agreement signed last year.
A runoff will be held in Slovenia next month between the incumbent president and a former prime minister as no candidate appeared to win Sunday's election. Former Prime Minister Borut Pahor was first with 40 percent of the vote, followed by President Danilo Turk, with 36.2 percent, the AP reported. Turk was previously tipped as the frontrunner in the election for a largely ceremonial post. Prime Minister Janez Jansa said in September that Slovenia does not need an EU bailout, despite the country’s current economic problems.
A rocket launched from the Gaza Strip on Monday reportedly struck the yard of a house in southern Israel, causing no injuries. Earlier, Israeli aircraft attacked three militant sites in Gaza, in retaliation against recent rocket barrages, the AP said. The rocket attacks intensified over the weekend, with more than 110 rockets hitting Israel since Saturday, according to the IDF. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that Israel’s January 22 elections will not constrain the country from acting to halt the rocket assaults.
West African governments will send 3,000 troops to Mali to help the country defeat al-Qaeda-linked militants, Nigerian state television reported on Sunday. The decision came at the end of an emergency summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Nigeria. The plan still needs final approval from the UN Security Council. Northern Mali has been under siege by Islamist extremists for more than six months now.