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16 February, 2013


Tehran vows revenge on Israel for killing of general

A senior Tehran official has vowed revenge against Israel for the assassination of a Revolutionary Guard general.  Ali Shirazi, representative of Iran's supreme leader to the Guard, was quoted by the ISNA news agency as saying Israel will soon pay the price for Wednesday killing. The Guard holds "mercenaries and supporters" of Israel responsible for the murder  of General Hassan Shateri en route from Damascus to Beirut. Israel did not comment on the issue.


TU-204 makes emergency landing in Vladivostok, no injuries

A plane has made an emergency landing in Vladivostok after the carrier’s main hydraulics system malfunctioned. “Vladivostok Avia’s” Tupolev-204 was en route from Vladivostok to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii when the incident occurred at 9:30 local time. None of 104 people onboard were injured.


Investigative journalist shot in Sri Lanka

­Three unidentified gunmen broke into the house of Faraz Shaukatally, an investigative journalist working for the Sunday Leader, and shot and seriously wounded him, Sri Lankan officials said. According to his colleagues, the journalist was discussing via phone his latest article due to be published in this week's edition. Sri Lankan rights groups have accused the government of paving the way for “this nature of incidents to continue” over the failure to prosecute those who have been responsible for attacks on media. In January 2009, an editor for the Sunday Leader was killed and other staff journalists were attacked. No arrests have been made over the incidents.


Egypt’s police to get 100,000 9mm guns

­Egyptian police will now carry a 9mm pistol after their complaints of a lack of firepower led to the interior ministry's purchase of 100,000 weapons, AP reports citing an official within the ministry.
It is alleged that the purchase decision was made after policemen claimed that they could not properly defend themselves against the unrest sweeping the country.  Policemen have gone on strike in recent weeks protesting poor working conditions and the lack of security.


Power outage leaves Damascus and southern Syria in darkness

­A power outage plunged Damascus and the southern provinces of Daraa and Sweida into darkness on Saturday evening, SANA says. There have been frequent power cuts as the country's 23-month conflict has often  damaged the infrastructure. The residents experience difficulties as  fuel shortage makes it hard for them to run backup generators.  The last power cut happened at the end of January.


Egypt police beat protestor to death in public – report

­Police in the Egyptian city of Beni Suef arrested a man suspected of killing an officer and beat him to death publically at their fallen colleague’s funeral, reports Ahram Online. The officers tied Hossam Abo El-Regal down in a mini-truck at the site of the funeral and beat him to death as tens of mourners including senior security and political officials watched. Police officer Captain Hesham Kamal El-Din Ta'ma was shot on Saturday morning in the Upper Egypt governorate of Beni Suef.


EU calls Israel to improve conditions for Palestinian prisoners

­The European Union urges the improvement of conditions for Palestinians held in Israeli jails , many charged with attacks on Israelis, Reuters reports. There have been concerns over the deteriorating health of 4 Palestinians who on hunger strike in protest of their detention, says EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton. EU officials also call upon the restoration of the prisoners’ family visiting rights, which they lost, when they began their protests. Rallies are scheduled next week in support of the hunger striking prisoners, a Palestinian minister said.


Libya arrests 4 foreigners suspected of distributing Christian books

­An Egyptian, a Swedish-American, and two unknown detainees have been arrested on suspicion of distributing Christian materials in Benghazi on Tuesday, local police reported. The group allegedly printed 45,000 books and has already distributed another 25,000. Promoting Christianity is a crime in the predominantly Muslim North African country. Authorities are not disclosing where the foursome is being held.    


Hezbollah does not need arms from Syria – leader

The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah does not need Syrian or Iranian support in any future conflict with Israel, the movement’s leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Saturday, Reuters reports. "Everything we need for the next battle we have in Lebanon and we keep in Lebanon," he said. Nasrallah’s comments are believed to be an implicit counter to claims that a Syrian weapons convoy targeted in an Israeli airstrike near Damascus on January 30 was intended to supply arms to Hezbollah.


Rare Singapore rally against planned population increase

Almost 3,000 people staged a rare demonstration in Singapore to protest a government plan to boost the city-state’s population by allowing in more foreigners. Critics say the plan will be a burden on Singapore’s already strained public services, hike up the cost of living and dilute their national identity. The government believes the current population of 5.3 million needs to be increased to 6.5-6.9 billion by 2030 in order to maintain the economy.


French Defense Minister calls for regime change in Syria

­Syrian President Bashar Assad cannot stay and a regime change in Syria is needed, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a security forum in the United Arab Emirates. “It is more urgent than ever to act to overcome differences in favor of a political transition", MENA quotes Le Drian as saying, “A transition in which President Assad would no longer keep his place.” The Syrian crisis has lasted for about two years taking the lives of 70,000 people, according to United Nations estimates.


Kerry did not answer Lavrov’s proposal to hold talks – Moscow

­Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov proposed holding a phone conversation with US Secretary of State John Kerry on February 14, but received no response, so the issue was dropped, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Saturday. As was previously reported by the US State Department, Kerry wanted to talk with Lavrov on the evening of February 12, right after the release of information on North Korea's nuclear test, but repeatedly failed to reach him by phone.


Bomb kills 15, injures dozens in Shiite area of Pakistan

A bomb has killed 15 people in a Shi’ite Muslim area of the Pakistani city of Quetta, police officials told Reuters. Around 50 people were wounded in the blast. Officials said most of those killed were members of Pakistan’s Shiite minority, which has come under frequent attack from Sunni militant groups this year.


Police use tear gas against protesters in Ivory Coast

Police in the Ivory Coast have used tear gas to disperse a protest by supporters of former President Laurent Gbagbo, AFP reported. Fifty young people shouting “Free Gbagbo” were pushed back as they tried to charge a barrier set up by police in Abidjan. Officers in riot gear sealed off Yopougan Square, while a division of the UN’s Ivory Coast operation used armored vehicles and four-wheel drives to block the main road leading to the demonstration. Gbagbo has been held by the International Criminal Court since 2011, where he has been charged with crimes against humanity. The former leader failed to step down as president in December 2010, sparking clashes that led to around 3,000 deaths.


Syrian troops press rebels in fierce airport clashes

­Syrian army troops are advancing on rebel-held positions surrounding three military airports near the city of Aleppo in northern Syria, Al Mayadeen TV reported. Several militant groups attempted to take control of the airports and destroy their runways to undermine the Syrian army’s air superiority. Fierce fighting for the Aleppo international airport and the neighboring military air base have been reported. Government forces earlier said they repelled the rebels from two other air bases in the area, days after rebels seized the Al-Jarrah airport and the military Base 80.


India did not cancel helicopter order – Italian defense group

­Italian industrial conglomerate Finmeccanica has denied that India cancelled a $750-million deal for a dozen Augusta Westland helicopters, Reuters reported. The group said the Indian government had requested information on the order, which the company intends to provide. On Friday, the Indian Defense Ministry announced its intention to cancel the order, as Finmeccanica subsidiary Augusta Westland had become embroiled in a corruption scandal. Italian police arrested the now-former head of Finmeccanica, Giuseppe Orsi, on suspicions he bribed high-level Indian politicians to get the contract.


Papal election may be held March 15

A conclave to elect a new Pope may be held as early as March 15 if there are enough cardinals in Rome to participate, the Vatican has announced. A spokesperson for the Catholic Church said that the process was moving more quickly because the Vatican is dealing with a Papal resignation, rather than a death.


Karzai to ban NATO airstrikes for Afghan security forces

Afghan President Hamid Karzai will issue a decree prohibiting his country’s security forces from calling for NATO airstrikes in residential areas to aid in their operations, Reuters reports. The ban comes in the wake of a deadly foreign airstrike called by Afghan forces on Wednesday which killed 10 civilians in the country’s eastern Kunar province. Civilian causalities resulting from NATO airstrikes have becoming a point of increasing tension between Karzai and his international backers.


Bahraini minister accuses Hezbollah, Iran of 'terrorism'

­Bahraini Information Minister Samira Rajab has accused Hezbollah of “terrorism” and “extremism,” calling it a “terrorist militia,” Saudi Arabian newspaper Al-Watan reported. “Hezbollah is clearly present in Manama,” Rajab said. The minister stressed that Bahraini opposition figures recently met with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon, and that the uprising in Bahrain and Hezbollah activity in the region are broadly connected to Iranian interests.


Suicide bomb attack kills 4 in Iraq, including senior intelligence officer

­A suicide bomb attack has killed a senior Iraqi army intelligence officer and three bodyguards in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The name of the officer has not yet been released. The attacker detonated his explosives at the officer's home, police said. The beginning of the year has seen a surge of suicide attacks in Iraq, where Sunni Islamist insurgents are trying to ignite sectarian violence to destabilize the country.


Bahraini police defuse roadside bomb

­Bahraini law enforcement has detonated a two-kilogram explosive found on the Bahraini side of King Fahd causeway, which links the country with Saudi Arabia, a kingdom official said. Earlier on Friday, an unknown shooter with a shotgun wounded four police officers in the Shia Muslim village of Karzakan. The oil-rich monarchy has experienced low-intensity civil unrest since a popular uprising began in 2011.


Powerful 6.2-magnitude quake strikes Philippines

­A powerful 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck the southern Philippine island of Mindanao on Saturday. No casualties or damage were immediately reported. The quake took place off the coast, about 30 kilometers northeast of the town of Sarangani. No tsunami warning has been issued.


Activists float hundreds of thousands of leaflets into N. Korea

Activists in South Korea have sent some 200,000 anti-government leaflets across the border with the North, on the birthday of the North's late leader Kim Jong-il. The North Korean defectors used balloons filled with gas to float the leaflets and $1 bills across the border. The balloons featured slogans such as, "North Koreans rise up" and "The Kim dynasty will soon collapse," and urged Pyongyang to stop its nuclear tests.


Tunisia reschedules talks on forming government

­Tunisia has rescheduled talks on the formation of a new technocratic government to Monday, Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali said on Friday. The announcement came after his meeting with leaders of the country's main political parties. "There has been some progress on all the points raised... That is why we have decided to continue the discussions on Monday," Jebali told the press.


6.0-magnitude quake hits northern New Zealand

A quake measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale has struck New Zealand’s northern island, and no damage was reported. The US Geological Survey put the epicenter of the earthquake approximately 300 kilometers northeast of Auckland, at a depth of 205 kilometers. New Zealand is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, making it very prone to quakes.


N. Korea may be preparing another nuclear test – S. Korean media

Heavy-duty trucks loaded with sand and rocks were seen at North Korea's Pungguye-ri nuclear test site, South Korean newspaper Joong Ang Daily reported, citing intelligence sources. South Korean media has claimed the activity is a sign the North is preparing for another nuclear test. Sand and rocks are needed to fill up the tunnels where the test may be conducted, media reports said. North Korea made similar hauls before their nuclear test last Tuesday. Earlier reports suggested the North had scheduled several nuclear tests for this year.


Australian senator detained in Malaysia

­Malaysian immigration authorities detained an Australian senator on his arrival at the Kuala Lumpur airport on Saturday. Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, known for his criticism of the Malaysian government, planned to discuss transparency issues in the coming general elections with Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Xenophon told the AP by phone that he was taken into custody at the Kuala Lumpur airport, and was told he was on a security watch list. Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr has demanded Xenophon's immediate release. The senator is expected to be deported Saturday night.


BMW revokes 30 000 SUVs in the US due to defected breaks

­The German auto giant BMW has recalled thousands of luxury X-5 SUVs in the U.S. due to defected breaking system. The issue concerns eight cylinder cars made from 2007 through 2010. The company says the oil leak from the break vacuum pump may affect performance of the breaks, which can be extremely dangerous in case of emergency. BMW promised to provide free replacement parts and notify customers and dealers this month.


Canada’s aboriginal minister steps down

Canadian Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan has resigned after violating ministry guidelines. Duncan admitted to inappropriately lobbying a tax court in June 2011. As Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, he faced a number of protests by Canada’s indigenous communities that were at odds over treaty rights.


Fireball seen above San Francisco - reports

­A bright fireball has reportedly been seen in the sky over the San Francisco Bay Area, ABC news said citing several witness accounts. The report comes one day after a meteorite fell in Russian Urals, causing widespread panic. Around 1200 people were injured as an air blast from the meteorite explosion smashed windows and damaged some buildings.


Venezuelan opposition accused of plotting assault on Cuban Embassy

Venezuela's opposition has been accused of plotting an assault on the Cuban embassy in Caracas, RIA Novosti reported. According to Venezuelan Vice-President Nikolas Maduro, a small opposition group lead by Miranda state Governor Henrique Capriles attempted to seize the embassy. Venezuelan police and National Guard have done their best to protect “sacred territory of beloved Cuba,” Maduro said.


US, Russia and Iran to unite against proposed expulsion of Olympic wrestling

­Washington and Moscow and Tehran are now joining forces for the right to keep on grappling in the Olympics following a recommendation of International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials to scrap wrestling from the competitions. "We must form a coalition of the willing, so to speak, that will come together at some point to support the cause,” Rich Bender, executive director of USA Wrestling, told RIA Novosti. The decision about forming a coalition will be discussed in Tehran next week, where US wrestlers are set to compete in the 2013 Freestyle World Cup.


Small plane crash in Florida leaves three dead

­Three people have been killed in a small plane crash in Florida, authorities announced on Friday. The Cessna 310 en route from Okeechobee to Bartow lost control with the FAA near Fort Pierce. Search and rescue have discovered the crash site in a marsh area on Friday morning about 20 miles west of Vero Beach. The US Coast Guard helicopter assisted in the retrieval of the victims. No one has  yet been identified. The cause of the crash is being investigated.