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12 February, 2013


Senate committee approves Hagel for defense secretary

­A US Senate security panel has approved President Barack Obama's nomination of Chuck Hagel for the post of defense secretary. Now Hagel must get the approval of the full Senate, after the Armed Services Committee voted 14-11 in his favor to succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. The 66-year-old former Senator from Nebraska is a recipient of two Purple Hearts in the Vietnam War. If approved by the Senate, Hagel who would become the first former enlisted combat soldier to take the post.


Hundreds of police stage protests across Egypt

­Several hundred low-ranking police officers rallied outside local security administration buildings in at least ten Egyptian provinces on Tuesday. “We are innocent of the blood of the martyrs,” read some of the signs carried by the protesters. The rare demonstration of opposition by Egypt's police reflects fears of a public backlash among the security force. Rights activists accused officers of using excessive force during the latest wave of violent crackdowns on anti-government rallies.


Chernobyl nuclear power plant damaged

­Wall panels and the roof of a unit at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (ChNPP) partially collapsed on Tuesday. The affected area is estimated at about 600 square meters, said the press service of the ChNPP.  Officals say the construction isn't critically damaged and that radiation levels were unchanged. The incident hasn't threatened the Unit 4 ‘safety’ dome. On April 26, 1986, the Reactor #4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded, causing the death of two workers and the evacuation of residents from nearby areas. Most of them have since suffered varying degrees of radiation poisoning.


Masked men attack luxury hotel in Cairo

­The glass front of Cairo's luxury Shepheard Hotel was smashed by dozens of masked man, armed with sticks and knives, a security official said. The attack on the building, located near Tahrir Square, caused panic in the hotel and nearby street, where traffic was briefly disrupted. The hotel staff, trying to protect the building from the assailants, formed a human chain around the premises. When police arrived at the scene, the attackers had already fled. Security problems have dogged the country since the revolution which triggered unrest and Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow.


French supermarket confirms horsemeat found in frozen ‘beef’ meals

A French supermarket has confirmed that frozen ready-to-eat meals supposedly made of beef actually contained horsemeat. Picard, a chain specializing in frozen foods, said tests showed that horsemeat was present in two lots of frozen “beef” lasagna meals. The retailer said the products were made by Comigel, a French firm which is currently at the heart of the food scare spreading across Europe. Comigel denies any wrongdoing, saying it got its meat from French firm Spanghero – which has passed the blame to its suppliers in Romania. The prime minister of Romania has denied that his country is to blame.


10 people killed in Egypt car accident

At least ten people have been killed in a major car accident in the suburbs of the city of Alexandria, Xinhua news agency reports. Police say a truck collided with three cars, causing the deadly pile-up. The incident caused several hours of traffic chaos in the area. Around 10,000 people die annually on Egyptian roads. Bad road conditions and poor driving habits are believed to be the most frequent reasons for car accidents in the country.


Chief of Italian defense group arrested - report

Italian police have arrested the head of defense group Finmeccanica SpA Giuseppe Orsi on Tuesday on accusations he used bribes to win an Indian contract, Reuters reports. He allegedly paid intermediaries to secure the sale of 12 helicopters in a deal worth some $750 million, while he was head of the group's AgustaWestland unit. Orsi denies distributing any money or pocketing a single euro, according to his lawyer. India's Central Bureau of Investigation has launched its own investigation following an inquiry into the deal by the country’s defense minister A.K. Antony.


Israel allows Turkey to build hospital in Gaza

Israel has approved the construction of a Turkish hospital on the Gaza Strip. The decison also allows Turkey to send staff and equipment to the Palestinian territory. The move followed a diplomatic request from Ankara, according to an Israeli official. The country’s media view the green-light as a gesture aimed at mending relations between Israel and Turkey, which have been strained since the 2010 Israeli raid on a ship attempting to break the Jewish state’s Gaza blockade , in which nine Turkish activists were killed.


Catastrophic spiral of violence threatens Mali – UN rights chief

­Reprisal attacks may see Mali face a “catastrophic spiral of violence”, UN rights chief Navi Pillay said on Tuesday. The human rights observers, currently in Mali, called on the warring sides to refrain from revenge attacks. French troops were sent to Mali in January to stop the progress of Islamist militants to the capital. The Islamists were accused of brutal abuses during their 10-month rule in northern Mali, with Mali's government forces now accused of reprisal killings.


Syrian death toll nearly 70,000 – UN Rights Chief

UN Rights Chief Navi Pillay says the death toll in Syria has reached nearly 70,000. The comment came during Tuesday’s UN Security Council meeting. Earlier Tuesday, rebels seized a military airport in Syria’s northern province of Aleppo, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The organization claimed that the rebels killed, injured, and captured about 40 troops. Clashes between rebels and government forces continue throughout the country as the opposition continues its two year fight to topple the regime of President Bashar Assad.


S. Sudan accuses Sudan of deploying troops to border

­South Sudan has accused Sudan of deploying troops along their shared border. This move is regarded as sign that the attempts have failed in creating a buffer zone between the countries and resuming oil flows from the south. The nations, despite an African Union mediation in September 2012, failed to create a demilitarized zone and resume oil exports from South Sudan. The border zone is regarded as a precondition for Sudan to allow oil exports to restart. Conflict between two countries erupted in April 2012, resulting in the most violent border clashes since 2011.


Iraq to resume flights to Kuwait after 22 years

Iraqi Airways will resume commercial flights to Kuwait for the first time since Saddam Hussein's forces invaded the country more than 22 years ago, the Kuwaiti civil aviation director said Tuesday. Fawaz al-Farah said the flights will resume Saturday. Plans call for a four-flight-a-week schedule, Kuwait News Agency reported. Baghdad will pay $500 million in compensation to Kuwait's national carrier for damage caused during the 1990-1991 Iraqi occupation. The accord is likely to end a long-running dispute over reparations for Kuwait Airways. Other disputes over war reparations still remain. US-led forces drove Iraqi troops from Kuwait in early 1991.


G7 states promise no currency wars

The G7 nations said in a special statement on Tuesday they will not to be drawn into global currency wars. “We reaffirm that our fiscal and monetary policies have been and will remain oriented towards meeting our respective domestic objectives using domestic instruments, and that we will not target exchange rates,” the statement said. Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso welcomed the statement, saying that Japan’s choice to double its inflation target does not aim at affecting foreign exchange markets. The G7 encompasses the US, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Canada and Italy.


Clashes over war crime trials erupt in Bangladeshi capital

Fierce clashes broke out in Dhaka between police and supporters of the largest religious party, which is demanding a halt to war crimes trials. The protesters attacked police despite rubber bullets and tear gas in the Bangladeshi capital’s busy Karwan Bazaar and Motijheel commercial districts, media reports said. The protesters are demanding a halt to the trials of Jamaat-e-Islami leaders for crimes they allegedly committed during the country’s 1971 war of independence against Pakistan. A senior Jamaat leader was sentenced to life imprisonment last week for mass murder. Eight other Jamaat officials are also being tried along with two officials of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).


Russian parliament approves ban on smoking in public places

The lower house of the Russian parliament approved in a final reading on Tuesday a ban on smoking in public places. The law, which will be effective on June 1, completely bans smoking in government buildings, universities, schools, hospitals, stadiums, railway stations, on trains and near the metro. Smoking lounges will be allowed at workplaces and offices. Starting in 2014, smoking will be banned at hotels and restaurants. The law was supported by 441 deputies, and one voted against it.


France arrests 15 Kurds in anti-terror probe

Fifteen Kurds have been arrested in southwestern France in an anti-terror probe, legal sources said Tuesday. Those detained in Bordeaux and Toulouse are suspected of being senior figures within the regional structure of the outlawed Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), AFP said. German federal prosecutors pressed charges on Tuesday against a 46-year-old Turkish man suspected of raising money for the PKK throughout Europe, including through extortion rackets.


Italian ex-spy chief gets 10 years over CIA kidnapping

Italy's former military intelligence chief was sentenced to 10 years in jail on Tuesday for his role in the kidnapping of an Egyptian Muslim cleric in an operation organized by the US. The Milan appeals court sentenced former head of the Sismi military intelligence agency Niccolo Pollari to 10 years in prison, and his former deputy Marco Mancini to nine years, Reuters reported. The court also awarded a provisional 1 million euro in damages to the kidnapped imam, and 500,000 euro to the imam's wife. A former CIA station chief was sentenced in absentia this month to seven years in jail. Imam Abu Omar was snatched from a Milan street in 2003. He said he was tortured for seven months after being flown to Egypt.


2 University of Maryland students killed in murder-suicide

Two University of Maryland students were killed and a third student was injured in a murder-suicide incident, Prince George's County police said. A shooting at a single-family home in College Park, Maryland, was reported at approximately 1:17am local time. Police officials said a student allegedly set a fire in the basement and then started shooting, hitting one roommate. The second roommate was shot while trying to run away. The gunman then allegedly turned the gun on himself.


Suu Kyi to help Myanmar ethnic peace process

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has offered to help negotiate an end to conflicts between the government and the country's ethnic minority groups. She made the offer in a videotaped speech to members of her National League for Democracy party as part of Union Day on Tuesday. The holiday marks when her late father Gen. Aung San signed an agreement with leaders of the country's ethnic minorities to gain independence from Britain together in 1947. The government and Kachin ethnic rebels held talks last week on ways to avoid military confrontations after battling since late December. The Kachin criticized Suu Kyi for not pushing the government to end its attacks.


Turkish PM Erdogan says car blast on Syria border was bomb attack

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that a powerful blast in a minibus on the Syrian border, which killed 14 people, was a bomb attack. “A vehicle loaded with bombs was able to reach our customs gate because the customs gate on the Syrian side is not working and is not being controlled,” AFP quoted Erdogan as saying in parliament after Monday's incident. The vehicle exploded in the buffer zone between Turkey's Cilvegozu border crossing and Syria's Bab al-Hawa post. The latter was seized by Syrian rebels in July.


Indian police shoot dead at least 8 from Assam tribe

Indian police shot at hundreds of tribesmen and women in Assam on Tuesday, killing eight people, the state's chief minister said. Police were called after violence broke out during village council elections. Rabha tribesmen and women opposed the elections, saying they infringed on tribal law. A leader of the Rabha tribe said he held the government responsible for the deaths, Reuters said. Tribesmen armed with swords, spears and axes marched to polling stations from villages in Goalpara district, and at least two people were killed by the mobs in the early hours of the day, according to officials.


Russia's Central Bank leaves refinancing rate at 8.25%

The Central Bank of Russia held the refinancing rate at 8.25 percent on Tuesday for a fifth month. The rates on the operations of Bank Rossii remain the same, it said in a statement. The decision was made “based on an assessment of inflationary risks and the prospects for economic growth,” according to the bank. It also set all reserve requirements for commercial lenders at 4.25 percent starting next month.


Indian policeman killed as student unions clash in Kolkata

A police officer was reportedly killed Tuesday in clashes between the student unions of the Congress and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in Kolkata, India. The clashes erupted during the ongoing university elections in the city, NDTV reported. Another officer was injured after he intervened in the violent clashes.


Italy’s Finmeccanica head arrested in corruption probe

The head of Italian defense group Finmeccanica was arrested on Tuesday in a corruption probe into the sale of helicopters to the Indian government, according to a judicial source. Corriere della Sera newspaper said that Finmeccanica Chief Executive and Chairman Giuseppe Orsi had been arrested for bribes allegedly paid to secure the sale of 12 helicopters to India. Three other people had been placed under house arrest as part of the investigating into the 560-million-euro Indian helicopter contract, Reuters reported. Orsi has denied any wrongdoing. State-controlled Finmeccanica claimed it has always conducted business in India through official channels.


Kyrgyz court sentences ex-president Bakiyev in absentia to 24 years

A garrison military court in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek has sentenced in absentia former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to 24 years in prison. He was found guilty of abuse of power, the Supreme Court said in a statement on Tuesday. His brother Zhanybek Bakiyev, the former head of the security service, was also convicted on several charges and sentenced to life in prison, Itar-Tass said. Their property was ordered confiscated. Bakiyev was overthrown on April 7, 2010, after an uprising. During clashes at Bishkek’s main square on that day, 97 people were killed and around 500 were injured. The former president and his brother now live in Belarus, which has refused to extradite them.


Syrian rebels seize military airport in Aleppo province – reports

Rebels seized the Al-Jirah military airport in Syria's northern province of Aleppo on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. It also claimed that the rebels killed, injured and captured about 40 troops. “The remainder of the troops pulled out from the airport, leaving behind several warplanes and large amounts of ammunition,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. The previous day, Islamist rebels reportedly overran the town of Tabqa in the neighboring province of Raqa and took control of the nearby strategic Al-Thawra dam on the Euphrates River.


Russian aviation watchdog orders Aeroflot to suspend 4 Superjet 100 planes

Russian aviation watchdog Rosaviatsia has ordered Aeroflot to temporarily suspend flights of four of its Sukhoi Superjet 100 passenger planes. Earlier, a malfunction occurred in the planes’ undercarriage and slats. Aeroflot has 10 Superjets in its fleet. Sukhoi Civil Aircraft company representatives said that several other design deficiencies had been discovered since Aeroflot started flights with the first of the aircraft in June 2011. SSJ 100s had been granted a type certificate in Europe, Indonesia and Laos.


Heathrow to raise ticket prices to help finance new £3bn terminal

­Heathrow Chief Colin Matthew’s plan to expand the new Terminal 2 facility at Europe’s busiest airport has met both political and financial criticism. London Mayor Boris Johnson has vehemently spoke out against Matthew’s plan to pay for the £3bn construction by increasing fares by £19.33 per passenger for 2012-13 and up to £27.30 in 2018-19,  Airlines, including British Airways and Virgin, have lambasted the proposed the charges as ‘too steep’. The motion to pass along the financial cost to airlines and passengers is to be decided by the Civil Aviation Authority in January 2014.


5 arrested, including 2 custom officers in Sydney Airport drug bust

­Police have arrested 5 more people - including two Customs officers -as part of a two-year investigation into drug trafficking at Kingston Smith International Airport. The 5 arrests today bring the total to 17 since the beginning of the investigation into the ring of airport officials who have used their power and authority to facilitate drug cell operations. The men are accused of importing $9.5 million of ingredients used to make crystal methamphetamine.


Putin submits draft bill banning officials’ foreign bank accounts

President Vladimir Putin submitted a draft bill to the State Duma on Tuesday that bans Russian officials from having bank accounts abroad. The law will also prevent officials’ spouses and children from having foreign bank accounts. The draft bill concerns those occupying positions in the state bodies, state corporations and the Prosecutor General’s deputies. The lower house of the parliament is currently considering a draft bill that would ban officials and the military from holding real estate abroad.


Russia’s Komi republic declares mourning for miners killed in blast

Vyacheslav Gaizer, the head of Russia's northern Republic of Komi, on Tuesday declared February 12 to 14 to be days of mourning after a blast at the Vorkutinskaya mine the previous day. Eighteen people were killed, and three others were injured in the incident. One of those wounded was sent to a Moscow hospital. The 18 deceased were trapped in the facility after a blast at a depth of 800 meters on Monday. Around 250 miners were evacuated.


UN’s Ban Ki-moon says N. Korean nuclear test ‘grave’ violation

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday condemned North Korea's nuclear test. It was "deplorable" for Pyongyang to defy international appeals to refrain from such provocative acts, he said. “The Secretary-General condemns the underground nuclear weapon test conducted by [North Korea] today,” Reuters quoted Ban's spokesperson Martin Nesirky as saying. “It is a clear and grave violation of the relevant Security Council resolutions,” Nesirky added.


Tenth case of new, SARS-linked coronavirus confirmed in UK

­A tenth case of a new case of coronavirus has been discovered in the UK after a patient was admitted to the intensive care in a Manchester hospital, the Health Protection Agency has announced. The coronavirus is related to the SARS virus, whose epidemic killed over 800 people in 2003. The patient being treated is a UK resident who had been in the Middle East and Pakistan. There is no clear evidence that the virus can spread between people, but experts suspect humans can catch it from animals such as bats or camels.


Two men charged with murder of 15-year-old who performed at Obama's inauguration

­Two Chicago men have  been charged in the death of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, a girl who performed at President Barack Obama's second inauguration. Eighteen-year-old Michael Ward and twenty-year-old Kenneth Williams from Chicago will face trial on first-degree murder, attempted murder and aggravated battery with a firearm in the assault, which also injured two others. The Chicago police arrested Ward and Williams over the weekend. Pendleton was part of the King College Prep band that performed in Washington during the re-inauguration festivities. Police allege that she and her friends were shot in Kenwood's Harsh Park after school on January 29 when a man jumped a fence and fired on the group.


Libya closes borders for revolution anniversary celebrations

­Libya will close its borders with Tunisia and Egypt as a security measure ahead of the country's two-year anniversary celebrations, marking the beginning of a revolution against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the prime minister said on Monday. The border is to be shut from February 14th  till the 18th. The celebrations are planned to start on February 15th and culminate two days later.