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20 November, 2012


Oman asks US for $96 million arms sale

­Oman has asked the US to sell $96 million worth of guided missiles, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said. The agency, which oversees foreign arms sales, passed on the request to Congress for approval of 400 Javelin Guided Missiles and associated equipment. Washington sees the sale as a means to “improve Oman’s capability to meet current and future threats and provide greater security for its critical oil and natural gas infrastructure.”


Former Croatian PM gets 10 years in prison for bribery

­Former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on a bribery conviction. The court found Sanader guilty of accepting €10 million from Hungarian oil company MOL to grant it a controlling stake in Croatia’s state oil company INA. The fifty-nine year-old was also found guilty of receiving €545,000 from the Hypo Alpe Adria Group, which positioned itself as a the leader on the Croatian market. The high-profile trial is part of the country's pledge to rid itself of corruption ahead of its joining of the EU in July 2013.


France to bring troops home from Afghanistan early

­About 400 French troops have pulled out of the north eastern Kapisa province early after a handover ceremony with Afghan troops. The French government decided to pull out its troops after a series of killings, including a single attack by an Afghan soldier in January that left five French soldiers dead. 1,500 French troops will remain in Afghanistan in non-combat operations. Of these, about 1,000 will begin returning military equipment to France while 500 will focus on training Afghan troops.


Church of England votes against women bishops

­The general synod of the Church of England has narrowly voted against the appointment of women bishops. The decision comes after a 12-year legislative process, and just six additional “yes” votes would have tipped it over the two thirds mark, the amount required for the change. Twenty years after the introduction of women priests, the issue has continued to divide the Church of England between reformists and conservatives. The Archbishop of Canterbury – the head of the Church of England - was in favor of appointing women bishops.


Egypt to receive $4.8 billion from IMF

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Egyptian authorities have reached an agreement on a 22-month stand-by arrangement (SBA) for the total sum of $4.8 billion US dollars, IMF said Monday. The financial aid is to support Egypt’s “pressing economic and social challenges during a difficult time of political transformation” through the year 2013/14. Egypt has pledged to carry out fiscal reforms that will boost social spending and infrastructure investment, as well as cut the large budget deficit, the IMF mission head Bauer said. Egypt’s authorities are to ensure “a fair and competitive business environment” and support small and medium-size enterprises, Bauer added. IMF Executive Board’s approval of the SBA is expected in several weeks’ time. Earlier, the EU has granted Egypt a financial aid package in the amount of $6.3 billion.


Northern Ireland to host 2013 G8 summit

­Luxury golf resort Lough Erne, near the picturesque city of Enniskillen in southwestern Northern Ireland, will be the venue of next year's G8 Summit, scheduled for June 17-18. The site is located not far from the border with the Republic of Ireland. In 2011, the resort announced bankruptcy and was put up for sale for $10 million. It is for the first time that an international event of such scale will be held in the country, as it was previously considered to be unsafe due to the simmering religious conflict.


Goma in DR Congo falls to M23 rebels

­The M23 rebel group, which the UN says is backed by Rwanda, has marched into the eastern Congolese city of Goma as the national army flees, despite the presence of UN peacekeepers. Police surrendered their weapons and no shots were fired. There have been warnings of a humanitarian disaster if the fighting in the area continues. More than 50,000 people have fled camps and homes since Sunday and are in dire need of shelter, water and food.
This latest round of fighting broke out in April after M23 rebels, who were at the time in the Congolese Army, asked for a pay rise and negotiations. When their demands were refused, fighting broke out. Eastern Congo is rich in minerals but beset with tribal differences, which are seen as the real reasons for the conflict.


Thousands of Amnesty International employees strike in London

­Protesting employees of Amnesty International rallied today near the company’s headquarters. The strike was triggered by the company’s announcement it would fire a number of its workers. The management of Amnesty International is planning to reorganize the company and to transfer 500 of its jobs to 10 different regions that violate human rights, according to activists. The walkout is expected to only take place at Amnesty International’s London office, though protests have already taken place at some of the company’s international offices.


UK charges PM’s former aide and media CEO with bribery

British authorities have charged Prime Minister David Cameron’s former media chief and the ex-CEO of News International for illegally paying officials for information. Andy Coulson, who worked as Cameron’s chief of communications from 2007 to 2011, is accused of paying for information from Buckingham Palace’s internal phone directory. Separately, former CEO Rebekah Brooks who worked as an editor for UK publications the News of the World and the Sun has been charged over supposedly bribing an official from the Ministry of Defense.


Polish police arrest man accused of plotting terror attack against Parliament

­Polish authorities have taken into custody a man who was allegedly planning to carry out a terror attack on Warsaw’s Parliament building while the President, prime minister and several government ministers and lawmakers were inside. The 45-year-old Polish academic professor had access to chemistry labs and was also in possession of illegal explosives, munitions and guns. Two other men with illegal firearms were also arrested in connection to the plot.


Pakistani high court dismisses blasphemy case against 14-year-old girl

­Pakistan’s Islamabad High Court confirmed it has dropped charges against 14-year-old Rimsha Masih, a Christian girl who was accused of committing blasphemy. Masih spent three weeks on remand in an adult jail after she was arrested on August 16 for allegedly burning pages from the Koran. Masih’s arrest prompted worldwide condemnation, and she was released on bail in September. Police have since told the courts that she was not guilty, and that a cleric who allegedly framed her should face trial instead.


NATO to supply Turkey with Patriot missiles

­Turkey has reached an agreement with two NATO nations to supply Patriot air defense missile systems to Ankara, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced. Ankara discussed the issue in Brussels with the heads of foreign and defense ministries of EU member-states. Germany has agreed to supply Turkey with two Patriot missile batteries, and the Netherlands will supply another. Ankara expressed interest in acquiring additional air defense systems after a number of incidents on the Turkey-Syria border. In June, Syria downed a Turkish scout fighter jet that they claimed had violated Syrian airspace. In October, Turkey bombarded Syrian army positions in response to the alleged shelling of Turkish territory.


Georgia’s ex-Defense Minister arrested

­Georgia’s former Minister of Defense Irakly Okruashvili was arrested Tuesday morning immediately after crossing the country’s border. Many have accused Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili of political motivations in the continuing investigation into a number of cases against Okruashvili. In 2007, Okruashvili fled Georgia after being accused of bribery and of illegally forming armed groups. The ex-minister has been incarcerated in Gldan prison in the capital Tbilisi.


Congo rebels, army clash in country’s north

­Rebels reportedly backed by Rwanda have fired mortars and machine guns on the outskirts of Congo’s provincial capital of Goma. The gunfire and explosions erupted in the early afternoon, with shells landing as far away as the city’s international airport and near a United Nations camp, causing flights to be rerouted and prompting the UN to evacuate most of its employees, officials said. The threat to one of the largest cities in eastern Congo could drag the Central African nation back into war.


UK Queen becomes first monarch to reach 65th wedding anniversary

­The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will spend their blue sapphire wedding anniversary together privately at Buckingham Palace. Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip of Greece married on November 20, 1947, at Westminster Abbey, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wed last year. That wedding was believed to have boosted the Royal Family’s image, recalling austere post-WWII days.


France ends combat missions in Afghanistan

­French troops in Afghanistan have ended combat operations in the country, Europe 1 radio reported. French troops have begun to withdraw from the Nijrab military base in Kapisa province, where 400 soldiers are stationed. As of today, 2,200 French servicemembers are deployed in Afghanistan, 700 of which are expected to return home by the end of the year. Some 50 instructors are expected to remain in Wardak province in Central Afghanistan, and another 1,500 will still serve in Kabul. Most French troops will have left Afghanistan by summer 2013, though several hundred will stay as instructors and advisers to help the Afghan police and army with security-related issues.


Iran sends missiles to Gaza - report

­A bulk consignment of short and long-range Iranian missiles is en route to Gaza to help the Palestinian defense against Israel, DEBKAfile reports. An Iranian 150-ton freighter is loaded with 220 short-range missiles and 50 long-range Fajar-5 rockets with 200-kilo warheads, the agency learned. The cargo, according to DEBKAfile, is to be transferred at sea to four Sudanese shipping boats. Later, it is alleged that the weapons will be transferred via the Sinai coast and then through smuggling tunnels into Gaza. This at a time when the international community is trying to broker a peace deal in the crisis which so far has taken the lives of more than a hundred Palestianian civilians and left almost a thousand injured.


Pakistan shows off first drones

­Pakistan has unveiled its first drone prototypes at the International Defense Exhibition in Karachi. The Pakistani Federal Minister for Defense acknowledged that the country's UAV technology is at the early stages of development and does not have the capacity to carry weapons but has been used for surveillance. Islamabad has asked Washington provide it with armed UAVs so Pakistan can eventually transition into carrying out its own combat missions, which until now have been conducted by the Americans. Washington so far has remained reluctant to offer its ally in the war on terror the militarily sensitive technology.