Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is said to be in a good state after undergoing cancer surgery, VP Nicolas Maduro said Thursday. Earlier Chavez was described as being in a stable condition. This comes after the Venezuelan government said that Chavez suffered complications during Tuesday’s surgery to remove cancerous cells from his body. Chavez suffered "bleeding that required the use of corrective measures" during the operation, Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said, adding that the recovery process will require “a prudent period of time as a consequence of the complexity of the surgery performed.”
US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, has withdrawn her name from consideration to become the next Secretary of State, saying she seeks to avoid the “disruptive and costly” confirmation process in the Senate. “If nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly, to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities,” Rice said in a letter to President Barack Obama. US Ambassador to the UN - and a close Obama confidante - Rice has been in the center of Republican criticism over the Obama administration's response to a deadly attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. The race for the position of the new Secretary of State comes as the incumbent, Hillary Clinton, has said she will not serve a second term. Obama said he accepts Susan Rice’s decision and expressed gratitude that she will continue to serve as the US Ambassador to the UN. "Her decision demonstrates the strength of her character, and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment to put our national interests first," the president said, while stressing the he deeply regrets “the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks.”
Police officials said that the bloodiest attack took place when a car bomb went off in a commercial street in the west of the Iraqi capital, killing four people and wounding 8. In a separate incident in Anbar province, 2 soldiers were killed when a bomb exploded near their observation post in the city of Fallujah west of Baghdad. Violence has ebbed in Iraq but insurgent bombings are still common.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that a German car salesman who was arrested by the CIA in Macedonia and mistaken for a terrorist and then brutally interrogated in a CIA prison in Afghanistan was a victim of torture. Once the US authorities realized he was not a threat they illegally sent him to Albania and left him on a mountainside.Critics of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program say there are others who were tortured as part of the CIA’s overzealous war on terrorism. A UN special rapporteur on human rights, the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International were among organizations that hailed the ruling as a long awaited break through.
One American soldier has been killed and three others wounded after a car bomb detonated near a NATO airbase in Kandahar, Afghanistan, US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said. Two Afghan civilians were also killed in the suicide attack, with the total number of the people wounded coming to 18, Kandahar Media Center reported. Panetta, whose plane became a target of a car bomb attempt during his Afghanistan visit in March, visited the Kandahar Airfield base just hours before the bombing.
A British MP has accused Spain of “an act of war”, after its naval ships repeatedly entered the territorial waters of Gibraltar. Bob Stewart, the Tory MP for Beckenham, said the British government needed to “respond robustly to this aggravation.” There have been almost 200 such incursions by Spanish state vessels into the waters off Gibraltar this year alone. The leader of the house said in reply that the UK government was dealing with the situation through diplomatic channels and that when radio warnings had been given to the Spanish vessels they departed from those waters.
The German deputy Prime Minster, Michael Link, has said that Patriot missiles, which Turkey has demanded from NATO, will be deployed in the southern region of Kahramanmaras and “thus they won’t be near Syrian airspace.” Germany was against placing the missiles too close to the Syrian border as they believed that this would be provocative against the Syrians. Kahramanmaras is close enough to be able to protect Turkey but does not share a border with Syria.
Israel's Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said Thursday the a major case against Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was closed. The move means that a 12-year investigation was concluded, with Lieberman facing only the minor charge of breach of trust. The main charges involved money-laundering, fraud, breach of trust and receiving large sums from tycoons while in public service. Israel will hold a parliamentary election on January 22. Lieberman’s Israeli Beitenu party is running on one ticket with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, and the coalition is expected to win.
A suicide bomber in an explosive-laden car detonated his vehicle near a NATO airbase in southern Afghanistan on Thursday. Two civilians were killed and 15 others wounded, including four foreign soldiers, AFP reported, citing police. “The suicide bomber detonated his car as an ISAF convoy was entering the Kandahar airfield,” Kandahar provincial police chief General Abdul Razeq said. A spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force confirmed the attack, but gave no details of any ISAF casualties.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Thursday he believes the Syrian government was on its last legs. “I think the regime in Damascus is approaching collapse,” Rasmussen told reporters. “It is only a question of time,” AFP quoted him as saying. The NATO head was speaking after a meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at NATO headquarters in Brussels. Rasmussen added that Syrian President Bashar Assad should “initiate a process to accommodate the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.”
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Thursday that any UN response to North Korea for launching a long-range rocket should be “prudent, appropriate and conducive to peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.” The US and its allies demanded further action from China and pressed for stronger sanctions. Beijing resisted this approach, with Hong saying that “the escalation of the situation” should be avoided. He also said China regretted the rocket launch.
Google has reached an agreement over copyright issues with French-language Belgian newspapers and will build business partnerships with them. The agreement “ends all litigation,” said Thierry Geerts, managing director of Google Belgium. The newspapers filed a lawsuit against Google in 2006, claiming it had no right to post links to their articles without payment or permission. Their victory was upheld in May. Google later said it had obtained the papers' legal consent to post their articles. The parties have now agreed to promote each other's services by placing Google advertising in the publishers' media. “It is important to note that we are not paying the Belgian publishers or authors to include their content in our services,” Geerts said.
Japan will hold an international conference in the Fukushima region over the weekend to discuss nuclear safety following last year's atomic crisis, the foreign ministry said Thursday. High-level officials from more than 50 countries and organizations are expected to attend the meeting from Saturday to Monday, AFP reported. The conference is co-hosted by the Japanese government and the International Atomic Energy Agency and will be held in Koriyama city, some 60 kilometers west of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Eurozone finance ministers agreed Thursday to hand over the next disbursement of Greece’s bailout loans. Athens will get a total of 49.1 billion euro ($64 billion) by March, with 34.3 billion euro due in the coming days. Greece needs the funds to avoid a potential default. In return for the funds, the country had to commit to further austerity measures and complete a bond buyback program.
A court in Belgium has authorized a judicial probe into the assassination of Congolese independence hero Patrice Lumumba. He was deposed in a coup weeks after his June 1960 election. He was subsequently arrested and executed on January 17, 1961 by a firing squad. His sons filed a war crimes complaint in Belgium a year ago against 12 Belgians they suspect of involvement in the assassination. A Brussels court Wednesday ruled that the prosecutor's office could go ahead with a probe to establish whether those named were involved.
Moscow is preparing a possible evacuation plan for Russian citizens in Syria, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said. The evacuation plan was prompted by a statement made by Syrian rebels who kidnapped the pro-Assad journalist Anhar Kochneva and threatened to attack the Russian embassy in Syria. The current whereabouts for thousands of Russian citizens has been established. The majority of Russians living in Syria are women married to Syrians and the children born to such families.
Venezuelan Information Minister Ernesto Villegas has said that President Hugo Chavez is going through a difficult recovery after cancer surgery in Cuba and is in “stable condition.” The minister expressed hope Wednesday night about Chavez returning home for his January 10 swearing-in for a new six-year term. But Villegas said in a written message on a government website that if Chavez doesn’t make it, “our people should be prepared to understand it.” Vice President Nicolas Maduro said that Chavez faced a “complex and hard” process after his latest surgery. “We’re more united than ever,” said Maduro, appearing on television together with members of Chavez’s inner circle.
Thailand's former premier Abhisit Vejjajiva was charged with murder on Thursday for his role in civilian deaths resulting from a military crackdown on anti-government "Red Shirt" rallies two years ago. About 90 people were killed and 1900 injured in street clashes between demonstrators and security forces, which culminated in a deadly May 2010 army operation to crush the protests. Abhisit and his deputy were formally charged, making them the first officials to stand trial for their role in political violence in decades. The court hearing has been postponed until Friday.
Pakistan has withdrawn its diplomatic staff from Syria, officials in Islamabad said Thursday. “We have temporarily withdrawn our diplomatic staff, including the ambassador, from Syria and they have all returned home,” foreign ministry spokesman Moazzam Ahmed Khan told AFP. Pakistan's three to four embassy staff and its ambassador were evacuated because of the “deteriorating security situation,” the spokesman said. The embassy was not closed, and Khan said staff will return “once the situation returns to normal.”
Spanish police have seized some 28 million euro ($36.5 million) of assets linked to deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The assets included 18 million euro in investments in three Spanish banks, two properties in a wealthy Madrid suburb and seven in the southern resort of Marbella, police said in a statement Thursday. The action was a result of an international judicial petition by the Egyptian government to block assets linked to 130 people associated with Mubarak, his family and former officials.
Dozens of Palestinian youths clashed with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron on Thursday. They threw stones and bottles at the troops, prompting Israeli forces to respond with tear gas. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries. The protests came a day after a Palestinian teenager was shot dead by Israeli forces in the city. Israel's paramilitary border police force said it shot the 17-year-old after he brandished a gun, which later turned out to be a fake. The Palestinians said the youth was unarmed.
South Korea's navy has launched a salvage operation in the Yellow Sea to retrieve debris from North Korea's long-range Unha-3 rocket launch. “Our navy discovered what appeared to be a part from the first stage of North Korea's rocket in the Yellow Sea Wednesday afternoon,” AFP quoted a defense ministry spokesman as saying on Thursday. The chunk of the debris was found on the sea bed, some 160 kilometers west of the southwestern port of Gunsan, at a depth of around 80 meters.
The EU has decided to open its market for poultry and eggs from Russia. Poultry meat could be supplied even to retail outlets, while eggs will be sold only to enterprises for food processing. The EU eased import restrictions on Russian eggs and poultry meat after member states gave a positive opinion in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH) in November.
Tokyo scrambled F-15 fighter jets on Thursday after a Chinese state-owned plane entered airspace over islands disputed by the two countries. A Chinese maritime aircraft ventured over the Senkaku islands, called the Diaoyu Islands in China, just after 0200 GMT, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said, as cited by AFP. Confrontations have become commonplace since Japan nationalized the East China Sea islands in September. Thursday marks the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Nanjing Massacre, when Japanese Imperial Army troops entered the then-capital of China.
A member of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili’s party Manuchar Jokhadze was found hanged at his home overnight, local officials said. Jokhadze, the Gardabani municipality deputy governor and a member of the United National Movement, may have committed suicide after being summoned to prosecutor’s office, some parliamentary deputies believe. Many of Saakashvili’s allies complain that they have been persecuted by new authorities since the president’s party lost the October 1 parliamentary election.
The Pakistani government has extended refugee status for over a million Afghans in the country by six months. There are 1.6 million registered and 1 million unregistered Afghans in Pakistan, the government said in a statement late Wednesday. The status had been set to expire on December 30. Islamabad does not plan to forcibly evict Afghans, but revoking their refugee status could encourage people to return home.
A total of 35 Filipino fishermen have been rescued in the past three days after a typhoon which killed hundreds in the southern Philippines left them adrift at sea. More than 300 tuna fishermen were about 220 kilometers from shore as early as October when Typhoon Bopha's top winds thwarted their attempts to return home. An Indonesian ship joined the search for the fishermen, who may have been swept toward the Celebes Sea from the Pacific Ocean off southern Mindanao Island. The storm killed at least 740 people, and nearly 900 people are missing.