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21 January, 2013


Chavez expected to return to Venezuela in coming days - brother

­A brother of Hugo Chavez has said the Venezuelan president is expected to return home from Cuba in the coming days as he continues to recover from the cancer surgery he underwent nearly six weeks ago. Argenis Chavez, one of the president's five brothers and the president of the National Electric Corporation, told Associated Press that his brother continues to recover. He added that it was up to the medical team to decide on the timing of his return. On Sunday, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said in a televised interview that Chavez was finishing with the "post-operative" phase of his treatment.


At least 10 killed in blast in Hama suburb – reports

­At least 10 people have been killed in an explosion in the suburb of Hama north of Damascus on Monday, RIA Novosti reports citing the state television. The bomb detonated on one of the main streets of the town. The conflict between the rebel and government forces has already killed more than 60 thousand civilians since March 2011, according to UN data. The government says the attacks are being perpetrated by well-armed rebels who have foreign support.


African soldiers in Mali number 1,000 – French spokesman

­The number of troops from West Africa and Chad in Mali hit 1,000 soldiers, said French armed forces spokesman Thierry Burkhard on Monday. These troops form the basis of a force to fight Islamist rebels in the country. The African-led contingent along with 2,150 French soldiers are helping the Malian army to push back al-Qaeda rebels peacefully, the French spokesman said. Meanwhile, the cargo planes from European nations, including the UK, have arrived in the country, as have supplies from the US.


India and Australia to start talks on uranium exports

­Talks on nuclear cooperation between Australia and India are planned to start in March as Canberra agreed to open talks on uranium exports to the South Asian region. The first round of talks is planned to be held in Indian capital, New Delhi, said the Indian foreign minister.  Australia has previously refused to sell uranium to India as it has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. However opinion has shifted in Australia in favor developing better economic and diplomatic ties with one of the largest Asian economies. The negotiations may run over two years.


Obama sworn in as US president for second term

American President Barack Obama has officially sworn the oath of office for his second term on the National Mall in Washington. Proceedings were overseen by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and a flag-waving cheering crowd of hundreds of thousands of people. Minutes earlie, Vice President Joe Biden also took his oath of office from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.


US House to vote on increasing debt ceiling

­The vote to increase in the nation’s debt ceiling will be held Wednesday, Republican officials say. If the measure gets the backing of the House it prevent a first-ever government default. It will aslo mark a change in the Republicans’ strategy, who have so far been inflexible about cutting government spending.However, rather than holding the government to ransom, Republicans appear to be pinning their hopes on getting approval for a cost cutting budget. The current debt limit is equal to $16.4 trillion. The expected increase has not been revealed.


Damascus, southern Syria left in darkness after rebels attack key power line

A rebel attack on a key power line was responsible for an overnight blackout in Damascus and most of southern Syria, the government said Monday. The rebels did not respond to the government's claims. Damascus residents have become accustomed to power outages during the Syrian crisis, but this was the first incident in which all of the city's electricity went out at once. Power was restored to some parts of Damascus early Monday.


9 Turkish lawyers detained for alleged militant links

A court in Turkey has charged nine lawyers with membership in an outlawed leftist militant group and ordered their arrest pending trial. The lawyers, including prominent human rights defenders, were detained last week in a nationwide police crackdown on those allegedly linked to the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front. The movement has claimed responsibility for a number of assassinations and bombings since the 1970s. About 70 other people also were detained for questioning, Anadolu news agency said. The lawyers charged Monday include Selcuk Kozagacli, the head of a lawyers' association.


Coca-Cola employees in Germany stage warning strikes

Thousands of Coca-Cola employees in Germany are staging short-term warning strikes this week in a dispute over wages. Workers at two plants in Bavaria walked off the job on Monday, with their co-workers at some 50 other facilities planning to follow suit in the coming days. Warning strikes typically last several hours. The Coca-Cola employees are trying to put pressure on the company ahead of the next round of wage negotiations with the NGG union, which is demanding a 6-percent raise over the next year for Coca-Cola's 10,600 employees in Germany. Coca-Cola has offered a 2.5 percent raise this year, and 2 percent the next year. The two sides will meet on January 30.


Military rumored to have staged coup in Eritrea

A group of soldiers launched what may have been a coup attempt in Eritrea on Monday, according to unconfirmed media reports. The military reportedly stormed the Ministry of Information headquarters in Forto, just outside Asmara. The 1997 constitution will now be implemented and political prisoners freed, a state TV announcer said before the broadcast was cut, sources alleged. Unusual movement around Forto was reported amid mounting speculation of a military coup.


US drone strike kills 4 Al-Qaeda suspects in Yemen

­Four suspected Al-Qaeda militants were killed in a US drone attack on Monday, Yemen’s defense ministry said in a statement. A vehicle with four militants inside was blown up in the strike, killing those in the car. It was the third such attack by US drones in three days. Six suspected Al-Qaeda operatives were killed in a drone strike in Marib on Saturday, and another 10 at a house in al-Bayda province on Sunday.


Verdict in Berlusconi sex trial due after Italy's February elections

Judges will not deliver a verdict in the trial of former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, who has been charged with paying for sex with a juvenile prostitute, until after next month's elections in Italy. A timetable of hearings set by Milan judges on Monday revealed that the last session in the trial will be held on March 11, after the elections on February 24 and 25, Reuters said. Had the verdict come earlier, it could have disrupted Berlusconi's campaign for a fifth term in office. Last week, Milan judges rejected his request to have the trial suspended until after the elections.


UK PM Cameron to deliver postponed EU speech on Wednesday

British Prime Minister David Cameron will give his long-awaited speech on the European Union in London on Wednesday, his office said. Cameron was originally due to speak in Amsterdam, but postponed the speech last Friday because of the Algeria hostage crisis. The premier will field his usual weekly question-and-answer session in parliament after the address Wednesday, Reuters reported. The PM is expected to outline a plan to renegotiate Britain's membership in the 27-nation bloc, and to promise a referendum on any deal with the EU.


Pirates seize Panamanian-flagged oil tanker in Ivory Coast port

Armed men have hijacked an oil tanker in Ivory Coast's commercial capital Abidjan, the government said Monday. Panamanian-flagged vessel ITRI was seized as the tanker was preparing to deposit 5,000 tons of oil at the city's port. The vessel was located off the coast of neighboring Ghana, but it was not immediately clear how many crew members were on board, or whether the hijackers had relinquished control of the tanker.


Floods kill 26 in Indonesian capital, 100,000 flee homes

Floods in Indonesia's capital Jakarta have killed at least 26 people and forced more than 100,000 to flee their homes, police said Monday. Most of the victims were electrocuted or drowned by floodwaters, which reached up to two meters high in some places. The floods reached their peak Thursday and engulfed around 30 percent of the city, including its main business district and the presidential palace. Some 103,000 people are now living in temporary shelters.


German Patriot missiles arrive in Turkey

­A German cargo ship carrying components of the Patriot surface-to-air missile defense system has docked in the Turkish Mediterranean port of Iskenderun, Anadolu news agency reported. The German missiles are expected to be deployed to the southern Kahramanmaras province by the start of February to defend Turkey's border with Syria. The Netherlands and the US have also each deployed two batteries to protect other stretches of the 900-kilometer frontier. A day earlier, 240 German troops landed in Turkey as part of a NATO mission aimed at preventing the Syrian conflict from spilling across the border.


Thai army chief demands probe into trafficking of Rohingyas

Thailand's army chief has called for a probe into senior army officials suspected of helping to traffic Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar through Thailand. “Anyone found to be involved… will be prosecuted,” Reuters quoted Prayuth Chan-ocha as saying on Monday. Thai media said that a police investigation found that senior army officers were involved in smuggling Rohingyas from Myanmar into Malaysia through Thailand. The trafficking has reportedly been ongoing for several years. The UN estimates about 13,000 boat people, including many Rohingya, fled Myanmar and neighboring Bangladesh in 2012.


14 killed in car crash in southern Egypt

A speeding truck collided with a minibus on a highway in southern Egypt, killing 14 people and injuring 13 others, a security official said. The accident took place on Monday morning on the Assiut desert road, 320 kilometers south of Cairo.


Algeria hostage-takers threaten more attacks – reports

The Mulathameen Brigade, which claimed credit for the mass hostage-taking at an Algerian gas plant, has threatened to carry out more attacks, SITE monitoring service said. The Al-Qaeda-linked group said in a statement on Monday that the hostage-takers had offered to negotiate freeing the captives seized at the plant, but the Algerian authorities used military force, Reuters reported. The brigade said it would attempt further such attacks until Western forces end their military involvement in northern Mali, where French forces are fighting to retake control from Islamist groups.


Nigerian found guilty of 13 counts of terrorism for 2010 bombings

­A South African court has found Nigerian national Henry Okah guilty of 13 terrorism charges related to two car bombings in Nigeria's capital of Abuja on independence day in 2010, AP reported. Twelve people were killed in the blasts, and three dozen more were injured. Okah is also facing charges for two bombings in the oil-rich Niger Delta in March 2010. Okah, who was arrested in Johannesburg a day after the October 1, 2010, attack in Abuja, faces a minimum sentence of life imprisonment.


Malian, French soldiers retake Diabaly

Malian and French soldiers have retaken control of Diabaly, Mali, a central town of 35,000 and home to a military camp. The Malian military said over the weekend that the government secured the town, a major milestone in a French-led offensive that continues to oust extremists from northern and central Mali. Radical Islamists retreated earlier, following days of French airstrikes.


Heathrow cancels 10 percent of daily flights due to weather

London's Heathrow Airport has canceled about 130 flights, 10 percent of the daily total, after canceling 20 percent of flights on Sunday. Flights have been disrupted since Friday at Europe's busiest airport as Britain is beset by heavy snowfall. Train services were also disrupted, and hundreds of schools across the UK are closed. There were also delays and cancellations Monday at airports in Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt.


Over 40 injured as 2 commuter trains collide in Vienna

Forty-one people were hurt - five of them seriously - when two commuter trains collided head-on in the Austrian capital Vienna, according to emergency services. The incident took place Monday morning in the 14th district of Vienna, Penzing, RIA Novosti reported. Railway traffic was interrupted in the area following the incident.


N. Korean rocket ‘homemade’ – Seoul

Most of the key components of the long-range rocket Pyongyang launched in December were made in North Korea, Seoul said on Monday. North Korea also used commercially available products imported from overseas, Reuters said, citing a report by the South Korean Defense Ministry. Pyongyang “increased completion of its long-range missile technology through several tests and experiences,” the ministry said. None of the rocket components imported by North Korea appeared to be in breach of the Missile Technology Control Regime. Seoul believes the North has likely developed the technology to propel a warhead more than 10,000 kilometers.


400 troops from Nigeria, Togo and Benin arrive in Mali

Some 400 troops from Nigeria, Togo and Benin arrived Sunday in Bamako, Mali, to take part in the campaign against Islamist rebels, France said. Chadian troops also reportedly arrived in Mali. French fighter planes and helicopter gunships carried out a dozen operations over the weekend in Mali, most aimed at "terrorist vehicles." African nations are expected to take the lead in the operation launched by France on January 11. The cost of the Africa intervention could top $500 million, a top official with the West African regional bloc said.


Bangladesh orders execution of cleric for independence war crimes

A Bangladeshi tribunal sentenced an Islamic cleric to death on Monday for crimes against humanity during the country's 1971 independence war. Abul Kalam Azad, a former senior member of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, was tried in absentia after he reportedly fled to Pakistan last April. He was also expelled from the party. The verdict was the first handed down by a controversial tribunal formed to try those accused of committing crimes during the war. Jamaat-e-Islami campaigned in 1971 against Bangladesh's war of separation from Pakistan. The party has been accused of supporting or taking part in atrocities committed by Pakistani troops.


Syrian opposition postpones forming transitional government

Syrian opposition leaders have postponed the formation of a transitional government. The announcement was made in a statement by the Syrian National Coalition during a meeting in Istanbul on Monday, Reuters reported. A five-member committee has been formed instead to put forward proposals about the government to the coalition within 10 days.


Kim Dotcom’s new Mega hits 1 million users in a day

Embattled Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom has launched the new file-sharing service Mega, which reportedly passed 1 million users after one day in service. Dotcom thanked the people of New Zealand for their “tremendous support over the last year,” and said that his “copyrights and access were taken from us without a trial or notice.” A New Zealand court is expected to decide in March if Dotcom will be extradited to the US over copyright infringement accusations. He also promised to launch the Megabox service and other associated websites in six months and “scrutinize every pixel to ensure it’s built… to adhere to the law” so as not to repeat Megaupload’s mistakes.


Hackers expose 1.7 GB of Azerbaijan’s government files

Hackers have stolen and published more than 1.7 gigabytes of data they’ve obtained from Azerbaijan’s Special State Protection Service.  The files published on on Par:AnoIA, a site belonging to the Anonymous Intelligence Agency, contain passport scans, reports, confidential shareholder documents, account statements, letters of credit, and details of oil drilling technologies. The data included information on other organizations including ING Geneva, Sumato Energy and BNP Paribas.


Egypt sees record number of prosecutions for ‘insulting the president’

­Mohamed Morsi has been president of Egypt for just 200 days, but prosecutors have already seen fit to defend his name nearly four times as often as Hosni Murbarak’s in his entire 30-year reign, according to a human rights lawyer. Gamal Eid, of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) says the number of cases going to court surpasses the total since 1909 when legislation prohibiting insulting the king was introduced.