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29 January, 2013


Morsi orders governors to ease curfew – report

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has told provincial governors to ease or annul emergency procedures following the declaration of a state of emergency on Sunday, Al Arabiya reports. Egypt has seen at least 56 deaths in the past week as violent protests erupted in three major cities: Port Said, Ismailia and Suez. The Islamist President responded by declaring a state of emergency in the cities, and imposing a 9:00pm curfew for residents.


New US secretary of state: Senate upholds Kerry nomination

­Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts won the support of a sweeping Senate majority to replace Hillary Clinton as the new Secretary of State. The Senate voted 94-3 to approve Kerry, who served five terms as a senator and ran for president in 2004, is expected to be sworn in as the top US diplomat later in the week. Kerry himself voted "present."


Death toll in Brazil nightclub fire climbs to 234

­The death toll from the Brazil nightclub fire this weekend has reached 234 people, according to the state forensics department. The original number has been raised by three victims as their names didn't appear on the original list. One body was mistaken for another individual with a similar name. Another was identified early Sunday but didn't appear on a previous list. The investigation has so far pointed to the misuse of fireworks in the nightclub in Santa Maria as the likely cause of the fire. Most of the victims died from smoke inhalation. More than 122 people are still in hospital.


US judge approves BP agreement for Gulf oil disaster

­A federal judge in Louisiana has accepted a guilty plea from BP for its role in the massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The company has admitted to manslaughter and other charges and will pay a record $4 billion in criminal penalties. The charges relate to the death of 11 workers, who were on the drilling rig that exploded, and for lying to Congress in November. More than 200 million gallons of oil spewed from the well before it was capped three months later.


South African Amplats agrees not to cut jobs and hold more talks with govt

­The world’s largest platinum producer, known as Amplats, has postponed downsizing the company and putting up to 14,000 jobs at risk in South Africa. Amplats agreed to a two-week delay on consultations on its planned layoffs, which could be around 3 per cent of the labor force of the country. The company wants to mothball unprofitable mines as part of a turnaround plan that was criticized by the African National Congress-led government. Amplants workers began their first strike in August last year; the action spread to other mines across the country. Over 50 people died in clashes with police during the industrial unrest.


UN agency warns of new bird flu threat

­The world risks a surge in bird flu outbreaks unless countries strengthen monitoring of animal diseases, the UN food agency reported Tuesday. The agency said that Asia and the Middle East, where the disease has become epidemic, still possess large reservoirs of the H5N1 virus. In the period between 2003 and 2011 the virus killed at least 300 people and forced the culling of 400 million domestic chickens and ducks worldwide, causing $20 billion in damages.


US Senate panel approves Kerry as Secretary of State

­US Senator John Kerry has been approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to replace Hillary Clinton as President Barack Obama's new secretary of state. A full Senate vote on Kerry is expected later on Tuesday.


Second set of NATO Patriot missiles in Turkey ‘operational’

A second pair of Patriot missile batteries sent by NATO to Turkey is now operational, a German security official said on Tuesday. The US, Germany and the Netherlands each committed to send two batteries and up to 400 soldiers after Ankara asked for help against possible attack from Syria. The two German batteries deployed around the Turkish city of Kahramanmaras some 100km from the Syrian border were in position and ready for use late Monday, Reuters reported. The first pair of batteries, sent by the Netherlands, went operational on Saturday around the city of Adana.


Israel boycotts UN Human Rights Council meeting

No reason has been given for the failure of Israeli representative to turn up in Geneva on Tuesday for a review of its record by the UN human rights body.  “We're in new territory here” with the unprecedented absence without a reason, UN Human Rights Council spokesman Rolando Gomez told the AP. Israel warned last year it would stop cooperating with the council because of an international fact-finding mission into Israeli settlements.


Ukrainian court sentences former police chief to life in prison for murdering journalist

The Pechersky District Court in Kiev, Ukraine, has convicted Aleksey Pukach, the former chief of the external surveillance department of the Interior Ministry, for abuse of power and the murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze in 2000. The court ruled that Pukach had killed the journalist and then cut off his head. Pukach, who was sentenced to life imprisonment, partially admitted his guilt, but said he acted on orders from then-Interior Minister Yury Kravchenko. Pukach said he did not intend to kill the journalist, only to strangle him with a belt.


Jordanian government resigns after general election

Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur submitted the cabinet's resignation to King Abdullah II on Tuesday, following last week's general election. “Nsur submitted the resignation of the government to his majesty,” AFP reported, citing a palace statement. The government will continue to handle its regular responsibilities until a new government is formed with the consultation of MPs. Tribal leaders, pro-regime loyalists and independent businessmen won most of the seats in the election.


Police officer shot dead while protecting polio workers in Pakistan

­A Pakistani police officer who was escorting polio workers during a vaccination campaign was shot dead by gunmen on motorbikes, police said. The attack took place as dozens of health workers went door-to-door to vaccinate children in the northwestern Pakistani province. Islamic militants oppose the UN-backed vaccination campaign, claiming that the health workers act as spies for the US. They also say that the polio vaccine makes Muslim children sterile. No group has taken the responsibility for the attack yet. The previous attack took place in December, when gunmen killed nine polio workers in Pakistan and demanded that authorities suspend the vaccination campaign.


Donors gather $455mln for Mali military operation

More than $450 million has been raised by a donors' conference in Ethiopia for the military campaign against Islamist extremists in Mali, an African Union official said Tuesday. Ramtane Lamamra said that nations gathered at the African Union's headquarters in Ethiopia pledged $455.5 million. The African-led Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) called for an initial budget of $461 million. Additional support required by the Malian army and the West African bloc ECOWAS raised the overall financial need to nearly $960 million.


Japanese PM urges new sanctions on N. Korea

­Japan and the international community should impose tough new sanctions against North Korea if the country continues its nuclear tests, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday. The statement came after North Korea announced plans last week for nuclear tests, after Pyongyang was strongly criticized and sanctioned by the UN Security Council for test-firing a long-range satellite rocket in December. North Korea claimed that it launched the satellite as a part of its non-military space program.


Niger okays US drones deployment – report

­Niger has agreed to station US surveillance drones on its territory to improve efforts to gather intelligence on Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters in northern Mali and the wider Sahara, a senior government source told KOMY. The drone deployment request, immediately accepted by Niger, was made by the US ambassador to Niger, Bias Williams, the source said. The US drones may be deployed in Niger's northern desert region of Agadez, which borders Mali, Algeria and Libya. The US has already stationed drones and surveillance aircraft around Africa.


Dozens found shot dead execution-style in Aleppo, Syria – NGO

The bodies of at least 68 young men and boys, all executed with a single gunshot to the head or neck, were reportedly found on Tuesday in a river in the Syrian city of Aleppo. A rebel Free Syrian Army captain said more corpses were still being dragged from the Quweiq River in the rebel-held area, AFP said. The bodies will be taken to the hospital at Zarzur, where relatives can then identify them. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the discovery.


Japanese PM ‘open’ to holding economic summit with China

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday that he was open to the possibility of meeting with Chinese leaders to rebuild economic ties damaged by a recent territorial dispute. “We should hold the summit between leaders and have high-level talks,” Reuters quoted Abe as saying on television. Maintaining strong economic ties is vital for both countries, the conservative premier said. However, he also reiterated Japan's stance on its ownership of the disputed islands: “The Senkaku Islands are our land and China has taken provocative steps against them,” he said, adding that “there is no room for negotiation on this matter.”


Myanmar abolishes ban on public gatherings

Myanmar's reformist government has abolished a 25-year-old ban on public gatherings of more than five people. The ban was enacted in 1988, on the day a military junta took power after crushing nationwide pro-democracy protests. Order No. 2/88 has been abrogated as it was not in line with the constitution, state-run newspaper Myanma Ahlin said Tuesday. The ban had been applied selectively to crush dissent, until the elected government of President Thein Sein took office in 2011.


Kurdish militants to halt Turkey hostilities in February – report

Kurdish militants are expected to announce in February a ceasefire in hostilities against Turkey, Hurriyet daily said Tuesday. The truce is part of the timetable for a peace process aimed at ending a 28-year-old insurgency. Around 100 fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrilla group will disarm and withdraw from Turkish territory as an initial confidence-building step, the paper reported. Turkish intelligence officials began talks with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in late 2012, and negotiations had also been held with the PKK in northern Iraq. More than 40,000 people have been killed since the rebels took up arms in 1984 to carve out a Kurdish state in southeastern Turkey.


UN registers more than 700,000 Syrian refugees

More than 700,000 Syrian refugees have registered in neighboring countries or await processing there, the United Nations said on Tuesday. “We have seen an unrelenting flow of refugees across all borders," UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Sybella Wilkes told Reuters in Geneva. “We are running double shifts to register people.” Jordan is host to 167,444 registered Syrian refugees, and 51,729 are awaiting processing. Turkey and Lebanon have 163,161 and 157,139 Syrian refugees, respectively, and thousands more awaiting processing.


Russia to step up 'anti-Magnitsky' law's entry ban on more US citizens

Moscow is moving forward with the implementation of the 'anti-Magnitsky' law, in particular the entry ban on some US citizens, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday. The names of the banned citizens will not be disclosed, he told reporters. In response to the US passage of the 'Magnitsky Act,' Moscow is expanding its list of US citizens accused of violating human rights, who will therefore be denied entry visas to Russia.


Egyptian army chief warns of national collapse amid political conflict

The head of the Egyptian military said the country's ongoing political conflict could lead to the collapse of the state. “The continuation of the struggle of the different political forces… over the management of state affairs could lead to the collapse of the state,” Reuters quoted General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as saying. His remarks were published on the official Facebook page of the army's spokesperson. Al-Sisi, who is also defense minister, said that protecting the Suez Canal was one of the main objectives of an army deployment in nearby cities shaken by violence.


Yemeni coast guard stops ship loaded with rockets

The Yemeni Interior Ministry said Tuesday that its coast guard, in coordination with the US Navy, stopped a ship last week in the Arabian Sea loaded with rockets and explosives. The coast guard boarded the Yemeni-crewed vessel in the territorial waters of the southern Arabian Peninsula nation. A cache of weapons, including shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles and rocket-propelled-grenades, was found, AFP said, citing the ministry's statement. The weapons also included bomb-making equipment and other explosives. The ship was flying several fake flags, and authorities are trying to establish the source and destination of the arms.


India's top court refuses to move gang-rape trial

The Indian Supreme Court has rejected an application to move the trial of five men accused of the fatal gang-rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi. A three-judge bench on Tuesday dismissed the petition because the lawyer who filed it no longer represents one of the defendants, AFP reported. The document was filed by lawyer M.L. Sharma, acting on behalf of defendant Mukesh Singh. Singh has since appointed V.K. Anand as his counsel, voiding the original petition. The application argued that the men could not get a fair trial in the capital New Delhi.


Suicide bomber attacks Somali PM's office

At least two people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the Somali prime minister's office known as Villa Somalia on Tuesday, army officials said. Several others were injured in the attack in central Mogadishu, AFP quoted Somali military official Abdukadir Ali as saying. Separate reports said at least one soldier was killed and two wounded after the suicide bombing.


4 killed in Australia floods, thousands evacuated

Massive floods have killed four people and forced thousands to evacuate across two Australian states on Tuesday. A deluge fed by the now-downgraded tropical cyclone Oswald dumped more than 200 millimeters of rain in some areas over the past three days, Reuters reported. A fleet of 14 helicopters rescued more than 1,000 people across Queensland overnight; rescue efforts continued on Tuesday. Air and rail travel and coal production have been disrupted. The worst-hit areas were around Bundaberg, Rockhampton and Ipswich in the Queensland state, and around the northern New South Wales towns of Grafton and Lismore.


Brazil arrests 4 over nightclub fire

Brazilian police have arrested four people allegedly linked to a nightclub fire in southern Brazil that left over 230 people dead. A co-owner of the Kiss club turned himself in on Monday afternoon for questioning. Earlier, security forces detained another owner of the club, a member of the band Gurizada Fandangueira, and the nightclub's chief bodyguard. Brazil has declared three days of national mourning over the tragedy. Fifty of the victims were buried on Monday.


Doctor shot dead in Southern California

­A doctor has been shot and killed at a medical office near Hoag Hospital in Southern California, a Newport Beach police spokeswoman Kathy Lowe said. The man was found dead in a patient examination room by police who arrived at the scene of the shooting. The suspect was found in the same room and taken into custody, the victim is believed to have died from multiple gunshot wounds.