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26 December, 2012


Hollande orders protection of French citizens in Central African Republic after protests

­French president Francois Hollande has ordered that security for French citizens in the Central African Republic be increased. The call comes after a wave of protests erupted Wednesday in the capital, Bangui. Hundreds of angry demonstrators gathered in front of the French embassy, hurling stones and burning tires.  In the ensuing demonstration the entrance to the embassy was vandalised and the French flag tore down. Protesters blame the country's former colonial power for failing to help the army fight off rebel forces that occupied a considerable part of the country and have been gradually advancing on the capital. About 1,200 French nationals live in the country.


Israel to start imports of construction materials for private sector to Gaza

For the first time after the 2007 blockade, Israel will allow materials for private construction to be imported to Gaza. Up to 20 trucks will bring goods daily, except for Friday and Saturday, AFP reported. This move will allow private companies to supply Palestinians with construction materials, that previously had to be supplied by international aid groups. The decision to ease restrictions was taken following the recent ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, negotiated with Egypt mediation.


Four dead, injuries reported as heavy rain and floods hit Iraq

­At least four people have been killed in Iraq in flooding caused by the highest rainfall to hit the country in 30 years. The four victims are thought to be from a house that collapsed due to the heavy rainfall, a female survivor has also been taken to hospital. Local authorities have declared a national day off, for the fourth time this year, owing to the bad weather. The other three were due to extreme heat.


President Morsi claims Egyptian referendum was transparent

­President Mohammed Morsi has addressed the nation in a televised speech and congratulated Egyptians with the new constitution, which he said will pave the road to democracy in Egypt.  The president stressed that the referendum was held with total transparency and under the full supervision of the civil society and judiciary. He called for the nation to unite and work for stability and security and all political factions to participate in the national dialogue. Morsi signed the new constitution earlier on Wednesday after 63% supported it during two-rounds of voting.


Obama breaks off vacation to deal with fiscal cliff

American President Barack Obama interrupted his holiday in Hawaii and flew back to the US capital to try to address the so-called “fiscal cliff”. The move opens the door to further negotiations in Washington, according to the White House. Despite long talks, the American leader has been unable to reach a budget deal with congressional Republicans to slash the deficit and avert the mandatory austerity measures, which could take the economy back into recession.


Thunderbirds creator Gerry Anderson dies

Gerry Anderson, creator of the Thunderbirds and the Joe 90 puppet superhero TV shows, has died at the age of 83. He had been suffering from Alzheimer's Disease since early 2010 and his condition had worsened in the past several months. Anderson died peacefully in his sleep, according to his son Jamie. The Thunderbirds TV series was filmed on Slough Trading Estate in Berkshire and was first broadcasted back in 1965.  His other works included, UFO, Space: 1999, Supercar and Fireball XL5.


1 adult, 4 children die in Oklahoma City fire

­At least 5 people, 4 of them children, have been killed in a house fire in Oklahoma City, USA.  The children were said to be between two and eight years old. All the victims are said to be related. One person has been taken to the local hospital, firefighters said. The cause of the blaze was not immediately known.


Putin orders Sochi check after earthquakes

President Vladimir Putin has ordered the Emergencies Ministry to check the 2014 Olympic sites in the southern city of Sochi, following a number of earthquakes, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Three quakes have been felt in Sochi since December 10. But authorities said they caused no damage. The latest quake of 5.5 magnitude hit the future Olympic host city on Wednesday, according to the Krasnodar region branch of the Emergencies Ministry.


Japan PM Abe says economic, diplomatic crises top tasks

Japan’s newly-named Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called his top mission the task to avert economic and diplomatic crises. After being elected on Wednesday, Abe vowed to pull Japan out of deflation through bold economic measures. He also said Tokyo would step up an alliance with the US to stabilize Japan's diplomacy shaken by territorial disputes with neighbors. Abe led the Liberal Democratic Party to victory in parliamentary elections on December 16.


Ukraine raises transit tariffs for Russian oil

Tariffs for oil transit from Russia through Ukraine via the Druzhba pipeline system will rise by 8 per cent as of January 1, 2013, Transneft said. The new tariff will come to 8.35 euro per tonne, Interfax reported. The current tariff is 7.7 euro per tonne. Transit of oil through Ukraine to EU states was 19 per cent less during 10 months of 2012 compared to the previous year.


Asiacell plans to raise $1.3bn in biggest Iraq stock offering

Iraq's second-biggest mobile operator Asiacell is looking to raise US$1.3 billion through what is expected to be the country's biggest stock offering yet. The company will offer 67.5 billion shares for at least 2 cents apiece when it launches the initial public offering on January 3. Investors will have until February 2 to submit orders for the shares. Baghdad's media regulator earlier pressured the company for failing to issue IPOs on the Iraq Stock Exchange.


Malaysia floods force 14,000 to flee

Floods triggered by torrential monsoon rains in Malaysia have forced some 13,746 people to flee their homes, Bernama news agency said. Heavy rain and high tide flooded hundreds of homes in northeastern states Terengganu, Pahang and Kelantan. The flood situation was deteriorating Wednesday, with some major roads in Pahang closed as rivers burst their banks. Part of the Paya Peda irrigation dam wall under construction in Terengganu had to be broken to release pressure. More rain is forecast in Terengganu, Pahang and southern Johor state in the next few days.


German minister predicts further delay for new Berlin airport

Germany's transport minister has warned of the possibility of a further delay in opening Berlin's new airport. Peter Ramsauer told Die Welt daily on Wednesday that there are “signs that the opening date on October 27, 2013 maybe cannot be held to.” The minister cited technical problems with the fire safety system. The opening had first been delayed from late 2011 to June 2012, then to October 2013. Willy Brandt Airport will replace the small and aging Tegel and Schoenefeld Airports.


Nigeria allows Russian sailors to return home

Russian sailors from Myre Seadiver ship will be able to return home from Nigeria soon, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday. The Russian-crewed ship was detained on October 19 in the port of Lagos after Nigerian authorities seized undeclared assault rifles with ammunition. The ship’s owner, Russia’s Moran Security Group, said the weaponry was needed to ensure protection from pirates along the Nigerian coast.


Sunni Muslims in Anbar province protest against Iraq government

Thousands of protesters gathered in Sunni Muslim-dominated Anbar province west of Baghdad Wednesday to voice their opposition to the Shiite-led government, according to witnesses. The protesters gathered along a highway linking Baghdad with neighboring Jordan and Syria, demanding that Sunnis' rights be respected and calling for the release of Sunni prisoners. It was the third major protest in Anbar province in less than a week. Iraqi authorities arrested on Friday 10 of Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi's bodyguards on terrorism-related charges. The minister comes from Anbar.


Death toll rises to 4 in St. Petersburg dormitory blaze

A fourth body has been found at the scene of the Kirovsky Plant dormitory fire in St. Petersburg, the city emergency situations department told Interfax. Earlier reports said the fire that broke out in the morning killed three and hurt six people.


S. Korea stages live-fire exercises near disputed sea border

South Korean Marines staged a live-fire drill on Wednesday near the disputed Yellow Sea border with North Korea. The maneuvers involved self-propelled howitzers and a multiple rocket launch system was held on two islands, Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong, the military said. Hundreds of island residents were evacuated into safe zones during the two-hour drill. There was no response from the North, AFP reported. A similar drill on Yeonpyeong in 2010 provoked a North Korean artillery barrage which killed four people.


Spain seizes 11 tonnes of hashish from drug trafficking ring

Spanish police said on Wednesday they had raided a major drug trafficking ring, seizing more than 11 tonnes of hashish and arresting 35 people. “The dismantled organization controlled the entire chain of trafficking, from production to packing,” police said. The ring distributed drugs throughout Europe, including France, Belgium, England and the Netherlands, and the seized hashish was also destined for Europe. The main warehouse was located in the central Spanish region of Toledo, where police seized 8.5 tonnes of the drug, AFP reported. Also, 150,000 euro in cash, 14 vehicles and 109 cell phones were confiscated.


Three killed in St. Petersburg dormitory fire

The death toll has risen to three after a blaze at the Kirovsky Plant dormitory in Russia’s St. Petersburg on Wednesday, the city emergency situations department said. The fire killed three people and injured six, it said. The fire started in the morning on the second floor of a four-story dormitory building and then spread into almost 700 square meters, Interfax said. The dormitory mostly accommodates plant workers. The blaze was confined at noon.


Nigeria warehouse with fireworks explodes

An explosion has ripped through a warehouse where fireworks were reportedly stored in Nigeria's largest city, Lagos. The explosion happened around 9am Wednesday on Lagos Island, shaking windows as the fire spread over two blocks. The fire injured forty people, according to the National Emergency Management Agency, and one person was reported dead. Fireworks were still going off an hour after the blast.


Ethiopia PM mediates in Sudan-S. Sudan peace talks

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was in Khartoum on Wednesday to bolster peace efforts between Sudan and South Sudan. Ethiopia endeavors “to push ahead the peace process,” Khartoum's presidential press secretary Emad Sayed Ahmed said. Desalegn will also travel to South Sudan on Thursday, AFP said. Khartoum and Juba have failed to implement security and economic agreements they signed in September. Under a peace agreement that ended the 1983-2005 civil war, the South separated in July 2011.


UAE supports 'non-sectarian' change in Syria

The United Arab Emirates supports a ‘non-sectarian’ change in power in Syria, the Gulf state's foreign minister said. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan also reiterated his country's support for the mission of UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. The Emirati minister met late Tuesday with the Syrian opposition National Coalition's chief, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, in Abu Dhabi. The UAE is hosting Syrian President Bashar Assad's only sister, Bushra, whose husband General Assef Shawkat, an army deputy chief of staff, was killed in a July bombing, AFP reported. She is now living in Dubai with her children.


Samsung seeks US import ban on Ericsson products

Samsung Electronics has hit back at Ericsson in their patent battle, filing a complaint to seek a US import ban on some Ericsson products. Samsung said an action was taken late last week with the US International Trade Commission. The South Korean company is seeking a ban on imports and sales of Ericsson's products over alleged infringements of Samsung's wireless and equipment patents, AFP reported. Ericsson “has proven unwilling” to continue negotiations by making unreasonable claims, Samsung said. Ericsson earlier filed a complaint with the commission seeking a ban on the import of some of Samsung's wireless products.


Iran tops Netanyahu’s re-election campaign

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged that halting Tehran's nuclear program would be his first priority if he is re-elected. “First and foremost we must stop Iran’s nuclear program, and the time for that is slipping away,” he said on Tuesday night, launching his re-election campaign. Netanyahu also spoke about his government’s economic achievements and only briefly addressed the peace process with the Palestinians, AFP reported. Israel will hold parliamentary elections on January 22.


China opens world's longest high-speed train line

China has opened the world's longest high-speed rail line. It runs 2,298km from Beijing to Guangzhou, an economic hub in the Pearl River delta in southern China. A train departed Wednesday from Beijing at 9am for Guangzhou, and another train left Guangzhou for Beijing an hour later. Trains on the high-speed line will initially run at 300kph, traveling about eight hours, compared to more than 20 hours previously.


Abe named Japan's prime minister

The lower house of Japanese parliament on Wednesday voted in conservative Shinzo Abe as Japan's new prime minister. Abe already occupied that post in 2006-2007. He led the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to victory in parliamentary elections on December 16, which ended more than three years of the left-leaning Democratic Party’s rule. The LDP governed for most of the post-World War II era.


At least 3 killed, 7 injured in suicide attack on US base in Afghanistan

A suicide car bomber killed at least three people and injured seven near the US military base in eastern province of Khost, Afghanistan, AFP reported. All the victims were identified as Afghan officials, with no coalition casualties reported. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. The Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network is active in the area and has plotted suicide bombings in the past.


Japan’s Cabinet dissolves as new PM set to take office

Japan’s government, led by PM Yoshihiko Noda, has resigned to make way for the new prime minister to take office. Shinzo Abe, the leader of conservative Liberal Democratic Party, who already ruled the country between 2006-2007, will be formally named prime minister later on Wednesday. Announcing the resignations, the chief government spokesman said the new Cabinet will face many tough issues and said he hoped they would deal with them "appropriately.'' Abe’s  conservative, pro-big business party, ruled Japan for most of the post-WWII period and is now replacing the left-leaning Democratic Party.