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31 January, 2013


Cameron promises help with training Libyan security forces

­British Prime Minister David Cameron has made a surprise visit to Tripoli. He promised to stand by Libya as it rebuilds and help train local security forces. “There is no true freedom and no true democracy, without security and stability as well. We are committed to helping with that both here and also in your neighborhood,” Cameron said during a news conference with Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan. The leaders agreed on a package of “additional help from Britain to Libya” including increasing the number of police advisers and increasing the scale of military training the UK already provides Libya.


US condemns Iran for nuclear ‘escalation’

­Iran’s decision to modernize equipment at the Natanz nuclear facility  is a ‘further escalation and a continuing violation ... of Iran's obligations under relevant United Nations Security Council and IAEA board resolutions ‘ said White House spokesman Jay Carney on Thursday. Iran has notified IAEA in a letter that it plans to install new centrifuges to raise the enrichment of uranium at the Natanz nuclear site in central Iran. Iran presently enriches uranium to level needed to power nuclear reactors and medical research, but far below the level needed for nuclear weapons. Tehran says its nuclear programme is purely for civil purposes.


Detroit motorway pile up kills at least three

At least three people, including two children, have died after a 30-car accident occurred on the Interstate 75 in Detroit on Thursday. As many as 20 people may have been injured in the crash.The pile up, which occurred during morning rush hour, forced the closure of both lanes of the highway and the tale back was reportedly a mile long. About 20 ambulances were called to the scene. Witnesses spoke of “Whiteout conditions”, which caused drivers to lose control of their vehicles.


Body of suspected Arizona shooter found

Police say that the body of the suspected gunman in the shooting in Phoenix, Arizona, Harmon, has been found near a row of shops in Mesa, near Phoenix on Thursday morning.According to the Mesa police department, a landscaper discovered the body shortly before 8 am and it matches the description of Harmon. It is reported, that the man died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. The Kia optima car that Harmon was driving was also found by officers nearby. Harmon shot and killed one person and wounded two others after a mediation meeting on Wednesday. Police say that Harmon specifically targeted two of the victims and that the shooting was connected to a law suit filed by Harmon.


Kurdish PKK militants dismiss Turkey withdrawal reports

Kurdish militant group PKK on Thursday denied media reports that its fighters had agreed to withdraw from Turkey. Sabah newspaper reported that Kurdistan Workers’ Party guerrillas had agreed to withdraw to northern Iraq by March 21 as part of peace talks with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. A PKK statement denied both the newspaper report and similar reports in Turkish media that said Ankara was in talks with the militants in northern Iraq, Reuters reported. “The stories on this subject are also completely invented lies,” the PKK said, describing the reports as a “deliberate psychological war aimed at manipulation.”


Bahraini court jails police over torture death

A Bahraini court sentenced a police officer to seven years in jail on Thursday for torturing a protester to death during a Shiite-led uprising in February 2011. “The killer of martyr Ali Musheime was sentenced to seven years in prison, which is the maximum sentence for the charge of beating to death,” lawyer Rim Khalaf wrote on her Twitter account. Musheime was the first fatality in the month-long protests against the rule of the Sunni al-Khalifa dynasty, AFP reported. Several police officers are being investigated or are on trial for allegedly torturing detainees after hundreds of Shiites were rounded up following the protests in mid-March 2011.


Japanese PM plans to change post-war constitution

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told lawmakers Thursday he intends to change the post-WWII constitution that imposed pacifism on Japan. “I will start with amending Article 96 of the constitution,” Abe said, referring to a clause stipulating that amendments require a two-thirds majority in parliament. The premier earlier said he wanted to study the possibility of altering the constitution's definition of Japan's armed forces, AFP reported. The Japanese military is referred to as the Self-Defense Forces, and is barred from engaging in aggressive action.


Top Pakistani court summons anti-corruption chief for criticizing judges

The Pakistani Supreme Court has summoned the government's anti-corruption chief Fasih Bokhari over a letter he wrote criticizing the tribunal's judges. Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry on Thursday issued a court order for Bokhari to appear before the tribunal on February 4. He has been ordered to explain the letter he wrote earlier this week to President Asif Ali Zardari, in which he accused the Supreme Court’s judges of trying to influence the upcoming parliamentary elections. Bokhari could face charges with contempt of court. In mid-January, he refused to arrest the prime minister over a corruption case.


3 killed as Bangladesh opposition clashes with police

Bangladeshi supporters of an Islamic party clashed with police during a general strike on Thursday, leaving at least three people dead and dozens injured, police said. The Jamaat-e-Islami party called a nationwide shutdown on Thursday over its demand that the government stop a trial of the party's leaders. The leaders have been charged with crimes against humanity committed during Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence from Pakistan. A police officer was killed and eight others were injured during clashes in the Jessore district, about 135 kilometers west of the capital Dhaka. Two protesters were reportedly killed in similar clashes in Bogra, 176 kilometers north of Dhaka.


British PM Cameron arrives in Libya unannounced

­UK Prime Minister David Cameron landed in Tripoli on Thursday for an unscheduled visit to Libya. Cameron will meet the Libyan prime minister, BBC reported. The British PM is likely to offer support for building a “strong, prosperous and democratic” Libya, and discuss UK-Libyan cooperation against terrorism, AP said. The surprise visit comes days after British officials said they were aware of “potential threats” against the UK embassy in Tripoli. The Libya trip follows Cameron’s visit to Algeria, where he held talks on security partnership against extremist groups, two weeks after the In Amenas hostage crisis.


Rival Egyptian parties come together, renounce violence

­Rival parties in Egypt have signed a document renouncing violence. The truce came as a result of a meeting facilitated by a leading Egyptian Islamic scholar and Al-Azhar Imam, in an attempt to stop the street violence that has already killed 50 people over the last week. The meeting included members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the party of current President Mohamed Morsi, and their most vocal political opponents: Liberal Mohamed ElBaradei, leftist Hamdeen Sabahi, and former Foreign Minister Amr Moussa. It was the first such meeting since a fresh wave of violence broke out in Egypt a week ago.


French seize final Islamist rebel stronghold in Mali

French forces have seized full control of the northern Malian town of Kidal, the last stronghold of the Islamist rebels. The French first took the airport, and then entered Kidal without resistance as Islamist fighters had already left the town, which is near the Algerian border. French and Malian forces earlier retook the provincial capitals Gao and Timbuktu. Malian troops were not involved in the Kidal operation.


Russia urges Iran to freeze enrichment program - Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says the country joins other members of UN Security Council in their call for Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program for the time of negotiations. Iran earlier informed the UN nuclear agency of plans to use more modern uranium enrichment centrifuges at its Natanz plant. Negotiations between Tehran and six world powers have so far been stalled because Western states and Iran cannot agree on the venue.


Turkish intelligence not involved in Paris murders of PKK members – newspaper

French investigators no longer believe that the Turkish secret service is linked to the murders of members of Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) in Paris, Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported, quoting an anonymous French official. The official also said that the police believe the likely cause of the murders was a financial conflict within the PKK. Three PKK members, including one of its founders, Sakine Canziz, were killed in Paris on January 9.  The killings sparked mass protests by Kurds in Paris and in Turkey.


South Africa train crash injures 150

­At least 150 people were injured when a commuter train collided with a stationary locomotive near Pretoria, South Africa, during the morning commute.  Dozens of schoolchildren were injured in the crash, which occurred just before 8:00am local time near Attridgeville, a suburb west of Pretoria. Twenty people are in serious condition, including the driver of one of the trains, while some of the wounded have already walked away from the scene, a local emergency services spokesperson said. The cause of the accident is being investigated, he added.


Spanish PM denies secret payment scheme by ruling party

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the ruling People's Party denied on Thursday that the party made payments from business donors to the premier and other party leaders. El Pais newspaper earlier published images of excerpts of almost two decades’ worth of handwritten accounts of donations that it said were maintained by People's Party treasurers. The party “has no knowledge of the handwritten notes that were published and of their content, and it cannot be recognized,” Reuters reported, quoting a party statement. The statement added the party's payments to its leaders and staffers were always legal and followed tax laws.


S. Korea threatens tough measures against North over nuclear test

South Korea has issued a harsh statement warning Pyongyang against conducting a third nuclear test. Seoul said that “if the North ever makes a wrong judgment and again undertakes provocation, there will be grave consequences,” Reuters reported. The warning comes after North Korea’s recent threat to attack the South if it joined the UN’s new round of tightened sanctions imposed on Pyongyang after its December 12 rocket launch. North Korea has maintained that the launch was part of its satellite program, but critics alleged it was a clandestine test of a long-range ballistic missile.


Magnitude 6.0 earthquake hits off Alaska

­An earthquake of magnitude 6.0 has been recorded off the coast of Alaska on Thursday, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The epicenter of the quake, which was 6.2 miles deep, as 47 miles south of Port Alexander.


UN may send peacekeepers to Mali

The UN Security Council will begin discussing within days whether to deploy a United Nations peacekeeping force to Mali, envoys said. Last month, the 15-nation council approved an African-led force for Mali. “There is increasing talk of moving straight to a UN peacekeeping operation,” Reuters quoted a senior Western diplomat as saying. Envoys said a UN peacekeeping force could consist of some 3,000 to 5,000 troops. Since the conflict in the country is ongoing, it is considered too early to deploy peacekeepers.


Two polio workers killed in Pakistan bomb blast

A bomb has killed two polio vaccination workers in Pakistan's northwestern tribal region, officials said. The two-person team was visiting Mali Khel village in the upper Kurram tribal region, “when an improvised explosive device planted along the roadside went off, killing them on the spot,” AFP quoted Kurram polio campaign head Jawad Ali as saying. It was the latest in a series of such attacks which have now killed 19 in two months. No one has claimed responsibility for any of the recent killings of polio workers, but last year the Pakistani Taliban banned polio vaccinations in the tribal region of Waziristan. The group condemned the campaign as a cover for espionage.


US Patriot air defense units dock in Turkey

A ship carrying US Patriot air defense units has docked at the port of Iskenderun, Turkey, in the province of Hatay. The equipment will be moved to Gaziantep near the Turkey-Syria border, Major Cengiz Alabacak of the Turkish Air Force said. The units will be operational next week, Dogan news agency reported, citing Major Royal Reff of the US Air Force. The ship only carried the Patriot’s launch systems, as the missiles were previously sent to the Incirlik air base in the southern province of Adana. The first NATO Patriot battery in Turkey was brought online in Adana on January 26.


Bout’s lawyers appeal sentence

The defense team of Russian businessman Viktor Bout, who was convicted in the US of arms trafficking, has filed an appeal against his guilty verdict. Lawyer Albert Dayan told RIA Novosti Thursday that the appeal aims to prove that Bout was innocent, and that his case was politically motivated. “Viktor had no intention of cooperating with Colombian left-wing radicals, agents of special services drew him in the scheme that they had designed,” he said. Last November, the US Department of Justice rejected Russia’s request to extradite Bout.


Interim Malian President ‘open’ to talks with MNLA rebels

Interim Malian President Dioncounda Traore said on Thursday that he was open to dialogue with autonomy-seeking Tuareg MNLA rebels. “Today, the only group that we could think of negotiating with is certainly the MNLA,” he told French radio station RFI. The talks would be predicated on the MNLA abandoning “any pretense to a territorial claim,” Reuters quoted Traore as saying. Tuareg rebels started a rebellion in northern Mali last year, a move that was quickly hijacked by Islamist radicals who seized the northern two-thirds of the country following a military coup in the capital Bamako.


Australian opposition leader warns carbon tax could bring about 2nd election

The day after Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced an election on September 14, opposition leader Tony Abbott promised on Thursday to scrap the country’s carbon tax if he wins office. He said he would call a second election if a hostile Senate rejected his plan, Reuters reported. “If it takes a double dissolution to do it, I won't hesitate to have one,” the conservative leader said, referring to the dissolution of both houses of parliament.


Tehran plans to upgrade uranium enrichment at Natanz – report

Iran has informed the UN nuclear agency that it plans to use more modern uranium enrichment centrifuges at its Natanz plant, Reuters said Thursday, citing a diplomat. The move could enable Iran to refine uranium faster than it currently can. Iran has denied claims by Western powers that it seeks to develop atomic weapons.


New York Times claims Chinese hackers attacked website for months

­The New York Times claimed that Chinese hackers have continuously attacked its network for the last four months, targeting employees’ accounts. The US newspaper said it was forced to hire special security experts to stop the numerous web attacks, which were traced to China. After monitoring the hackers’ activity for an extended period of time, some experts said their tactics resembled those of the Chinese military. The attacks began in October, coinciding with the newspaper’s investigation into lucrative business deals conducted by relatives of Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.


Hezbollah claims Israeli airstrike targeted Syrian research center

Lebanese militant group Hezbollah condemned on Thursday an Israeli airstrike that it claimed had targeted a Syrian research center. “Hezbollah expresses its full solidarity with Syria's leadership, army and people,” Reuters reported, quoting a statement by the group. Hezbollah also described the airstrike as an assault on Arab military capabilities. Reports on Wednesday said that Israeli jets bombed a convoy near the Syria-Lebanon border, apparently targeting weapons destined for Hezbollah.


Argentine court upholds freeze on Chevron assets

An appeals court in Argentina has dismissed an attempt by Chevron Corp. to unfreeze its assets after the winners of a $19-billion environmental lawsuit in Ecuador sued to force the oil company to pay. Pablo Fajardo, the plaintiffs' attorney, told the AP that the court refused to lift an embargo imposed by a lower-court judge in November over oil contamination left after Texaco Corp. pulled out of the Amazon decades ago. Chevron, which inherited the problem after buying Texaco, has refused to pay, arguing that if the accusations had been legitimate, the plaintiffs would be filing suit in the US.


Moscow concerned about reports of Israeli airstrike in Syria

The Russian Foreign Ministry has said that Moscow is verifying reports of an Israeli air force attack on facilities near Damascus, Syria. If true, the attack would be a gross violation of the UN charter, the ministry said. It could also mean that the territory of a sovereign state has been attacked, which is “unacceptable whatever the motives could be,” the ministry said.


14 demonstrators plead guilty to violence at China pollution protest

Fourteen people reportedly pleaded guilty to inciting a riot in eastern China last year in which at least 90 police officers were hurt. The mass protest ultimately led to the scrapping of a wastewater treatment project. The defendants were prosecuted Wednesday on charges of inciting mass violence against government buildings and damaging property in Qidong city in Jiangsu province north of Shanghai; their sentences will be announced later, Xinhua reported. The protesters had voiced concerns that wastewater from Japanese company Oji Paper in upstream Nantong city would not be properly cleaned before being discharged into the sea. Oji said the wastewater would be properly treated.


S. Korea confirms satellite operating normally

The first South Korean satellite, launched on Wednesday from its own territory, is functioning properly and transmitting data, the country’s officials have said. Earlier, a South Korean rocket reportedly delivered an observation satellite into orbit as a result of Seoul’s third attempt to launch a satellite into space.


Iran's oil export highest since sanctions thanks to China

­In December, Iranian crude oil exports hit their highest level since the EU imposed sanctions on the country's petrol trade last July, analysts and shipping sources said. The demand was boosted by China, the top buyer of Iranian oil, as well as India and Japan. The July sanctions, which aimed to deter Iran's disputed nuclear program, nearly halved the country's oil exports in 2012, leading to billions of dollars of lost revenue and a plunge in value in the Iranian currency. The current spike in exports has not quite reached pre-sanctions levels, but Iran is now buying tankers from China in anticipation of further growth in its oil trade.


AC Milan fans clash with riot police

­Italian riot police have used teargas to disperse a crowd of AC Milan football fans who let off flares and threw bottles during celebrations for the transfer of striker Mario Balotelli back to Italy from Manchester City. At least one police officer has reportedly been injured in clashes. The 22-year-old footballer is currently in Milan for a medical before signing a four-and-a-half-year contract.


At least two killed as tornadoes rip through southern US

­The US states of Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi and Tennessee all saw tornadoes Tuesday and Wednesday as an Arctic front faced off with warm air, creating severe weather conditions across a huge portion of the country. Tornadoes knocked out power in parts of Indiana, while three separate twisters were reported in Tennessee. A Georgia man was killed as a tornado struck his mobile home Wednesday, while a Tennessee man was killed when a tree fell on his residence. The National Weather Service warns that the storm is moving east, and with it a risk of severe weather across much of the east from the Ohio Valley, to the Gulf Coast and the Mid-Atlantic. Americans in these areas could see 70 mile-per-hour winds, hail and more tornadoes in the coming days. Tornadoes are a rare occurrence in January, when the main weather concerns are typically heavy snow and ice.