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21 February, 2013


UN rejects Haiti’s billion-dollar claim over cholera outbreak

The UN has refused to settle a billion dollar damages claim for the supposed role of its Nepalese peacekeepers in the Haiti cholera outbreak of 2010. The petition was filed by the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, back in November 2011, but has been contested by UN lawyers on the grounds that the claim was “non-receivable” under a 1946 convention on immunities for the UN’s actions. The UN also said it would be impossible to find the source of the outbreak. Around 8,000 people have died and more than half a million have been affected by the disease. Lawyers of the affected families put the award at more than US$ 1 billion. The secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has since called Haiti’s President Michael Martelly, to once again stress the UN’s commitment to alleviating the suffering caused by the cholera outbreak.


Hollande to receive UNESCO Peace Prize for Mali operation

French President Francois Hollande is to be awarded with the UNESCO Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize for his efforts to promote peace and stability in Mali, during the conflict which hit the country in January, the organization announced Thursday. The Jury particularly stressed ‘the solidarity shown by France to the peoples of Africa’. This Peace Prize was created in 1989 and is intended to award the living individuals and active public and private institutions for contribution to peace-keeping and stability. Former laureates of the Prize were Yasser Arafat, Shimon Pérès, King Juan Carlos of Spain, Nelson Mandela and others.


US Feds indict 4 people for 2009 Georgia plant salmonella outbreak

Four managers have been indicted by a federal grand jury on Thursday for a 2009 salmonella outbreak that occurred in a peanut butter plant in the US state of Georgia. The indictment, which was announced Wednesday, charges four employees - the owner, vice president, plant manager and quality assurance manager - with conspiracy, wire fraud, obstruction of justice and other issues involved in contamination. The salmonella outbreak is thought to have caused nine deaths and sickened hundreds. After the outbreak the plant was declared bankrupt.


Winter storm prompts Missouri State of Emergency

Governor Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency for all of Missouri due to a winter storm which started early Thursday morning and brought the possibility of power outages. The storm has seen a mix of snow, sleet and ice and forecasts promise more than 10 inches of snow in some parts of the state. The storm has been actively monitored since yesterday by the State Emergency Operations Center. The Missouri State Emergency Operations Plan has also been activated to allow state agencies to coordinate directly with local jurisdictions to provide emergency services.


Egyptian president to call for parliamentary election – Morsi's legal adviser

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi will issue a decree calling for a parliamentary election to begin in April, Mohamed Gadallah, a legal adviser to the president, told Reuters. The vote will be held in three or four stages in different regions, due to a shortage of poll supervisors. Egypt’s upper house of parliament - the Shura Council - cleared the way for Morsi to set an election date earlier on Thursday, by adopting an electoral law which was amended by the Constitutional Court. The last lower house election lasted from late November 2011 to January 2012. Demonstrators have been protesting against President Mohamed Morsi since mid-November, demanding that Morsi fulfill the goals of the revolution which brought him and his Muslim Brotherhood party to power.


Aid pledge for Syrian refugees 'unfulfilled' - Turkey

Turkey on Thursday accused other states of failing to honor financial pledges made last month to help Syrian refugees. International donors at a conference in Kuwait on January 30 pledged almost US$1 billion in aid to countries hosting stricken Syrians. “These pledges for assistance have not yet been fulfilled in a concrete way,” AFP quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Levent Gumrukcu as saying. Most of the refugees have fled to neighboring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, and the UN has warned that refugee numbers could reach 1.1 million within months. Turkey has spent more than $600 million thus far and received only around $90 million from the international community.


Blasts strike southern Indian city of Hyderabad

Two explosions shook the southern Indian city of Hyderabad late Thursday. Ten people are feared dead, and at least 40 others injured, NDTV reported. Other reports said, citing police, that two people were killed in the explosions. One of them occurred near a bus stop in a crowded market area.


Egypt's upper house adopts electoral law amended by top court

The upper house of Egypt's parliament, the Shura Council, adopted on Thursday an electoral law which was earlier amended by the Constitutional Court. The move clears the way for President Mohamed Morsi to set a date for lower house elections. On Monday, the Constitutional Court demanded changes to five articles of the revised electoral law. The Shura Council accepted this ruling and adopted the legislation without a vote, Reuters reported. Morsi is expected to ratify the electoral law by February 25, and voting could be held in about two months to choose the lower house. It was dissolved last year after the court ruled the original law used to elect it was unfair.


Three British men convicted of plotting 'worst-ever terror attack'

Three British Muslims were convicted Thursday of plotting terrorist bomb attacks that prosecutors said were intended to be bigger than the 2005 London bombings. A London jury found Irfan Khalid, 27, Irfan Naseer, 31 and Ashik Ali, 27, guilty of being central figures in the foiled plot to explode knapsack bombs in crowded areas. Prosecutors said targets had not been finalized before the arrest of the men inspired by the sermons of US-born Al-Qaeda preacher Anwar al-Awlaki. Their plot was reportedly undone by mishaps with money and logistics. The men were among 12 people arrested in September 2011 in raids in Birmingham. Several other suspects have pleaded guilty to offenses related to the plot.


Syrian activists say 18 killed by airstrike on rebel field hospital

Opposition activists in Syria say 18 people were killed Thursday in a government airstrike on a rebel field hospital in the southern city of Daraa. The city is known as a place where Syria's uprising began nearly two years ago. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said those killed include eight rebel fighters, three medics, one woman and one young girl.


Investigative committee to ‘prosecute US parents committing crimes against Russian kids’

The Russian Investigative Committee (SKR) intends to hold criminally liable all US citizens who committed crimes against Russian children, the committee’s chief Aleksandr Bastrykin said on Thursday. Russia has received information on the deaths of 21 Russian children adopted by US families and in seven cases Moscow was left dissatisfied with the court rulings, he said. “We will prosecute those American citizens who committed crimes against little Russian citizens and we will be seeking a legal and just punishment for them,” Bastrykin said. The committee has already opened 11 criminal cases in Russia against Americans involved in those cases. All the suspects are on Russia's international wanted list and Moscow is considering the issuance of arrest warrants for them. The Russian Prosecutor General's Office has sent requests for legal assistance to the US authorities.


Courthouse in flames in Malian city of Gao as fighting resumes

A courthouse reportedly caught fire in Malian city of Gao on Thursday as fighting resumed. The country’s troops are trying to stamp out remaining Islamist rebels from the northern city. Also on Thursday, a car bomb reportedly exploded in the northern Malian town of Kidal.


Fraud at Russian Defense Ministry estimated at $432.6mn

The Russian Investigative Committee now estimates the damage from a series of fraud schemes at the Defense Ministry at 13 billion rubles (about US$432.6 million). When the investigation started, the damage was estimated at 3 billion rubles, the committee’s head Aleksandr Bastrykin told reporters Thursday. It could take more than a year to conclude the investigative activities, he said. Prosecutor General Yury Chaika earlier said authorities are investigating 25 separate instances of fraud in the case involving the illegal sale of Russian Defense Ministry property.


Bulgarian parliament accepts resignation of govt

Bulgaria's parliament accepted the government's resignation on Thursday, paving the way for an early election. President Rosen Plevneliev will now ask parliament's three biggest parties if they want to form a government. The GERB party of outgoing Prime Minister Boiko Borisov and the main opposition Socialists have said they have no interest in participating in a caretaker cabinet. The election was scheduled for July, but now could be held as early as April. The government resigned Wednesday following a spate of violent protests over high utility bills.


Nigeria says reports 7 French hostages found safe ‘false’

Reports that seven French hostages kidnapped in Cameroon were found alive and safe in northern Nigeria on Thursday are false, a Nigerian military spokesman said. “It's not true,” Reuters quoted Sagir Musa, spokesman for the military Joint Task Force in Borno state, as saying. France's minister for veterans' affairs told parliament the four children and three adults abducted from Cameroon on Tuesday had been released. Minutes later, the minister said there was no official confirmation that they had been freed.


Car bomb explodes in Kidal, Mali - reports

A car bomb reportedly exploded in the northern Malian town of Kidal. A four-wheel drive vehicle exploded in a courtyard in an outlying neighborhood, Reuters said, citing a local source. He said one person was killed and another wounded.


Foreign agency behind adoption of Russian child who died in US to cease work

A foreign agency involved in the adoption of Maksim Kuzmin, a three-year-old boy who was adopted by US parents and died in America, will be banned from working in Russia. An order to stop its work was prepared by the Russian Education and Science Ministry and will be signed in one or two days, the ministry’ representative Vladimir Kabanov told State Duma deputies on Thursday. The decision was taken after the agency failed to give timely information on the child’s death, he said. The agency has worked in Russia since 2007. A total of 34 such agencies processing adoptions of Russian children are working in Russia.


EU parliament chief warns Italians against voting for Berlusconi

The German president of the European Parliament warned Italians on Thursday not to back former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in their elections. Martin Schulz told Bild daily that Berlusconi “has already sent Italy into a tailspin with irresponsible behavior in government and personal escapades.” In 2003, the then-Italian prime minister said he would like to suggest Schulz for the role of a camp inmate given privileges for supervising prison work gangs in a film on Nazi concentration camps, Reuters said. Berlusconi later brushed off the comment, saying he was being ironic, referring to a television comedy series.


Assad won’t be part of deal - Syrian opposition

The Syrian National Coalition is willing to negotiate a peace deal, but President Bashar Assad cannot be a party to any settlement, a communique drafted for an opposition meeting said. The communique stopped short of a direct demand for Assad's removal, Reuters said. The document will be debated at a meeting of the opposition alliance's leadership starting on Thursday. The opposition insisted in the past the president must go before any talks. Assad and his entourage must be held accountable for bloodshed, the draft says, adding that any peace deal must be under the auspices of the US and Russia.


Explosions and gunfire heard in northern Mali – reports

Witnesses heard explosions and gunfire in the town of Gao in northern Mali, Reuters reported. French and Malian troops have been in the area fighting off Islamist rebels’ attacks and securing the area. Witnesses describe hearing gunfire of heavy weapons and explosions. Approximately 4,000 French troops have been deployed on the ground in Mali to stabilize the conflict-torn West African state.


Two separatists killed in south Yemen clashes

Two south Yemen separatists were reportedly killed on Thursday during clashes in Aden between police and members of the Southern Movement. The police fired on protesters, thousands of whom had gathered in the southern port city to demand independence on the first anniversary of ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh's ouster, AFP said, citing the group’s members. A rival rally in support of unity was held in the same spot by members of the Islamist Al-Islah party.


Russian court authorizes arrest of Georgian politician over mass riots plot

Moscow’s Basmanny Court on Thursday sanctioned the arrest of Georgian politician Givi Targamadze, accused of organizing mass riots in Russia. Russia’s Investigative Committee earlier asked a court to approve Targamadze’s arrest. The court ruling will be sent to inquiry bodies to have him put on an international wanted list, the committee said. Georgia is unlikely to extradite the politician.


Bomb blast kills 1 at Pakistani mall

A bomb blast inside a shopping mall in northwestern Pakistan has killed at least one person and wounded 12 on Thursday, police said. The bombing targeted shops selling mobile phones in the Hashat Nagri neighborhood in the city of Peshawar. No one claimed responsibility. Police blame pro-Taliban militants who often target shops selling CDs, mobile phones and internet cafes.


French hostages kidnapped in Cameroon found safe in Nigeria - reports

Seven French hostages kidnapped in Cameroon have been found alive in a house in northern Nigeria, French television reported on Thursday. The hostages are “safe and sound and are in the hands of Nigerian authorities,” BFM quoted an officer from the Cameroon army as saying. However, the Cameroonian communications minister denied that the French nationals had been released, and a French minister backtracked on his earlier claim that they had been found alive. Four children and three adults were captured by Islamist militants this week while on a tourist excursion to Waza National Park near the Nigerian border with Cameroon.


Lavrov to discuss fate of adopted kids with Kerry next week

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry next week. The death of three-year-old adopted Russian boy Maksim Kuzmin in the US will top the talks’ agenda, Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry's special representative on human rights, told State Duma deputies Thursday. The fate of other Russian children adopted by US parents will also be discussed, Dolgov said.


Russia’s Mechel sells Romanian steel assets for $70

Russian metals and mining company Mechel sold its five factories in Romania to Romanian private equity firm Invest Nikarom SRL for the symbolic amount of around US$70. Ductil Steel, Campia Turzii, Mechel Targoviste, Mechel East Europe Metallurgical Division SRL, Laminorul were temporarily closed down in fall 2012, because of the unfavorable prices on European markets. The sale is in line with Mechel’s strategy of exiting the European metallurgic sector due to poor market conditions. In 2012, Mechel planned to sell all its Romanian companies for some $150 million, Romanian media said.


EU urges Cambodia to pay more for Khmer Rouge war crimes court

The EU has called on Cambodia to come up with more cash for a Khmer Rouge war crimes tribunal. Recent resignations have slowed proceedings and some staff are threatening to strike after going for more than two months without pay, Reuters reported. The UN was to pay for international staff and operations of the tribunal, while Cambodia paid for the national side. However, the government has been repeatedly criticized for a lack of support. A quarter of the population - up to 2.2 million people - died under the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979, notorious for its ‘Killing Fields’. The tribunal was set up in 2005. It has found only one person guilty of war crimes.


At least 3 dead in central Turkey bus crash

At least three passengers were killed and 30 injured in a bus accident in Gur district of central Anatolian town of Sivas on Thursday morning. The bus headed to Siirt from Istanbul and rolled over near Mazikiran neighborhood on Kayseri-Malatya Highway, local media said. The causes of the incident were not immediately clear.


Gunmen kill 7 in Indonesia

Unidentified gunmen shot and killed seven people in two separate attacks Thursday against the Indonesian army in the easternmost province of Papua. Assailants armed with guns and machetes ambushed an army vehicle, killing three sergeants, one private and two civilians, military spokesman Iskandar Sitompul said. Earlier in the day, another attack on an army post in the same area killed an army private and wounded a lieutenant.


US senator says Vietnam adoptions to start soon

US Senator Mary Landrieu has said Vietnam and the US are close to an agreement that would allow Americans to adopt Vietnamese children. Washington imposed a ban in 2008 after an investigation revealed widespread allegations of corruption, fraud and baby-selling. Adoptions will restart "in the near future," Landrieu said late Wednesday, citing strengthened laws passed by Vietnam. The senator added, however, that there is "always going to be a possibility of something going wrong."