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11 April, 2013


Cyprus allows domestic transactions up to €300,000

Cyprus has eased the liquidity regulations and has allowed bank transactions of up to 300,000 euros domestically, the finance ministry said on Thursday. The government also increased the threshold for company payments abroad to 20,000 euros from 5,000 euros without prior vetting and allowed travelers to take 2,000 euros abroad from 1,000 previously. Strict limits on cash transactions have been in place since March 28 to avert a bank run, following a bailout deal. Other restrictions, such as a cash withdrawal limit of 300 euros per day, remained in place.


Tunisian government receives millions of ousted president' assets

The Tunisian government has received $28.8 million in recovered assets that belonged to ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and had been held abroad, in Lebanon. The cheque was handed to President Moncef Marzouki by Ali bin Fetais al-Marri, who was appointed by the UN to head efforts to recover money from leaders overthrown in Arab uprisings.  In January 2011, Tunisian protesters forced President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to dissolve the government and flee the country.


Imprisoned Pussy Riot member petitions for parole

Mariya Alyokhina, a member of the punk band Pussy Riot, has filed via her lawyer a request to the court to be released on parole, Interfax reports quoting sourses. Earlier Alyokhina was said to be not putting in a petition, pronouncing a readiness to serve the full sentence. Alyokhina was sentenced in March 2012 to two years in prison after Pussy Riot staged a mock performance in Moscow’s biggest cathedral, protesting what they called collusion between the Russian Orthodox Church and the government. Along with Alyokhina, another member of Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, is also serving a two-year sentence. A third member of the band, Ekaterina Samutsevich, has been released on probation.


Fidel Castro inaugurates Cuban school in rare public appearance

The ex-president of Cuba, Fidel Castro, has opened a school in Havana for 140 children that he asked to be built. It’s the first time Castro has opened a public institution since 2006, when he stepped down as leader of the island nation. The 86-year old appeared to be in good health as he delivered a two-hour speech to students and teachers. He covered such topics as global warming, weapons of mass destruction, the economic crisis, fuel prices, and food production.


Senate votes in favor of scaled-back version of Obama’s gun-safety debate

With Congress returning this week from recess, senators have voted 68-31 to hold a debate on a scaled-down version of President Obama's gun-safety proposals. The new legislation would expand background checks of gun buyers, increase the funding of school safety and establish new penalties for gun trafficking. The measures were proposed by the President Barack Obama after 20 children and 6 adults were killed in the December 14 massacre at Sandy Hooks Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut. Even if the legislation passes the Democratic-led Senate, it may still be blocked by the Republican-run House.


2 dead, 36 injured as bus overturns in Irving, Texas

At least two people were killed and 36 others sustained injuries after a bus overturned Thursday morning on the President George Bush Turnpike in Irving, Texas, reports the local NBC news affiliate. The incident happened shortly after 9:30am local time in the northbound lanes of the turnpike, near Belt Line Road. Witnesses said the bus with some 40 people on board had rolled over. The North Texas Tollway Authority said it was a private travel bus that belonged to Cardinal Coach Line from Mansfield, Texas.


Gunmen kill 4 police officers in north Nigeria

Suspected Islamic extremists attacked a police station in northeast Nigeria, killing four officers in a gun battle, police said. The attack occurred early Thursday morning in Babangida, a small town in Yobe state. Police officers killed five of the gunmen, and two officers also were wounded in the attack. A dusk-to-dawn curfew in the state has been imposed by local government.


Egyptian parliament approves revised election law

The Egyptian parliament has approved a revised election law, Reuters reported. The Islamist-led upper house will now send it to the Supreme Constitutional Court to rule on its legality. The bill would set the rules for lower house parliamentary elections due to be held later this year. President Mohammed Morsi initially called elections for April, but later postponed them when the court annulled his decree setting the dates. The elections may now begin in October.


UK’s Hague warns Syria becoming century's 'greatest humanitarian catastrophe'

Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague has warned that the Syrian civil war was turning into the 21st century’s "greatest humanitarian catastrophe." Hague, who was hosting a meeting of G8 foreign ministers in London, declared the outside world must mount a much stronger intervention to curtail the crisis. Leaders of the Syrian National Council (SNC) on Wednesday secured a pledge of more support from US Secretary of State John Kerry. Jabhat al-Nusra, considered the most effective fighting force in the opposition, has recently vowed loyalty to Al-Qaeda.


Suspect who killed 13 in Serbia shootings has died – hospital

Hospital officials said Thursday that the suspect in the fatal shootings of 13 people in Serbia has died. Police earlier said that 60-year-old veteran Ljubisa Bogdanovic went on a pre-dawn house-to-house rampage Tuesday in a village of Velika Ivanca, some 50 kilometers southeast of the capital Belgrade. Bogdanovic had reportedly turned the gun on himself after the shootings, and remained in critical condition.


G8 ministers condemn N. Korean nuclear weapons program

G8 foreign ministers have condemned "in the strongest possible terms" North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology, Reuters said, citing a communiqué issued at their London meeting on Thursday. The ministers also urged Pyongyang to "refrain from further provocative acts."


Libya grants Egypt $2bn interest-free loan

Libya has granted a $2 billion interest-free loan to Egypt to help the country battle its economic crisis, an Egyptian finance ministry official said. The loan is to be repaid within five years, with a three-year grace period, AFP reported. Cairo is also holding talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over a loan of $4.8 billion as part of a financing program to lift Egypt's economy out of crisis. IMF officials have warned that the size of the loan may change.


Fukushima nuclear plant springs another radioactive water leak

Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant has sprung yet another leak of radioactive water, its operator said on Thursday. Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said around 22 liters of highly radioactive waste water leaked from a pipe, AFP reported. The incident occurred as work crews were attempting to empty a reservoir that itself had already sprung leaks. There has been no evidence that the leaked water had gone beyond the confines of the plant, the company said.


Bolshoi Theater refuses out-of-court settlement for dancer Tsiskaridze

The administration of the Russian Bolshoi Theater has refused to offer an out-of-court settlement to ballet dancer Niklolay Tsiskaridze. He earlier asked a Moscow court to annul official reprimands by the theater. The plaintiff had suggested conditions for the possible settlement that were unacceptable to the theater, spokesperson Alina Kudryavtseva told Interfax. Tsiskaridze described the refusal as a PR stunt, adding that his only demand was to annul “illegal reprimands.” He earlier accused the administration of preparing to sack him.


4 killed in southern Afghanistan bomb attacks

Two separate roadside bombings in southern Afghanistan have killed four people, including a district police chief, officials said. A bomb killed the police chief of Chora district and two of his bodyguards while they were on patrol early Thursday, according to a spokesperson for Uruzgan province Governor Abdullah Himmat. Also on Thursday, a roadside bomb killed a civilian and wounded two others in Helmand province’s Marjah district, according to Ummar Zawaq, a spokesperson for the local governor.


UK will not invite Argentine president to Thatcher's funeral

Britain will not invite Argentine President Cristina Fernandez to Margaret Thatcher's funeral next week, a government source said. Thatcher's family has objected to Fernandez being invited, the source told Reuters on Thursday. Thatcher was UK Prime Minister at the time of the 1982 Falklands war. Fernandez has mounted an increasingly vocal campaign to renegotiate the sovereignty of the contested South Atlantic archipelago, which Argentina calls Las Malvinas.


Israeli police detain 5 women in Western Wall prayer protest

Israeli police detained five women activists on Thursday at the Western Wall in Jerusalem for wearing prayer shawls, officials said. The incident occurred during a monthly prayer session by the Women of the Wall, Reuters reported. The group is opposed to police-enforced Orthodox restrictions at one of Judaism's most sacred sites, where worshippers are segregated by sex. The group's monthly gatherings at the Western Wall often end with the arrests of women who don prayer shawls or read publicly from the holy scriptures, rites reserved only for men under strict Jewish ritual law.


Bomb kills 2 soldiers, wounds 6 in southern Thailand

Two soldiers were killed and six were wounded in a roadside bombing in Thailand's insurgency-plagued south, police said Thursday. Suspected insurgents detonated an improvised bomb hidden on the road surface in Pattani province's Panarae district, according to Police Col. Manit Yimsai. The soldiers were in two armored vehicles traveling Wednesday night to inspect damage from an earlier militant attack. One of the personnel carriers was badly damaged in the attack, which was one of 36 incidents overnight in Pattani.


15 militants, 1 soldier killed in northwestern Pakistan – army

The Pakistani military said that 15 militants and one soldier were killed in fighting on Thursday as the army attempted to seize control of a remote valley in the country’s northwest. The military has faced fierce resistance from the Taliban and its allies in the Tirah Valley in the Khyber region, with troops setting out to dislodge insurgents from the heights above the valley six days ago, Reuters said. "Fresh clashes started early Thursday when security forces launched another operation to secure control of the valley," a military official said.


Palestinian PM tenders resignation – reports

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has offered his resignation to President Mahmoud Abbas, officials in the West Bank said. Abbas has reportedly not responded to Fayyad's offer. Tensions between the two officials have risen in recent months, particularly over the power to hire and fire Cabinet ministers. Fayyad enjoys strong support from the international community. Officials said he offered his resignation in February, while others claimed last week. The premier first told Abbas late last year that he wanted to resign.


Central US spring storms, tornadoes leave thousands without power, damage properties

Spring storms and tornadoes in the central US have triggered heavy snows and rains, as well as high winds that lead to power outages and extensive property damage across the region. At least three residents were taken to hospital with injuries in Van Buren County, Arkansas, after a tornado tore through their home, Reuters reported. Some 4,000 residents in the area were also affected by electricity blackouts, local officials said.


At least 4,300 Syrians killed in airstrikes – report

Airstrikes against Syrian civilians have killed at least 4,300 people since last July, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report published Thursday. Syrian government fighter jets have targeted bakeries, breadlines and hospitals in the country's north, according to the international rights group. HRW said its activists inspected 52 sites in northern Syria, documenting 59 attacks by the Syrian Air Force that killed at least 152 people.


Taiwan advises against trips to S. Korea

The Taiwanese government has become the first to advise its citizens not to go to South Korea, as tensions in the region continue to mount. The country’s foreign ministry advised residents to delay trips for business, holidays and education, citing the “unclear situation” in South Korea. The announcement comes as Seoul and Washington raised their levels of combat readiness in preparation for the possible test launch of mid-range missiles by North Korea.


Uruguay approves marriage equality

Uruguay lawmakers voted on Wednesday to become the second South American country to legalize same-sex marriage. Seventy-one of the 92 Congressmen voted for the bill, which was met with cheers from audience members when the decision was finalized. The passage Wednesday, which comes a week after the bill easily passed through the country's Senate, made Uruguay the third nation in all of the Americas, following Canada and Argentina, to affirm marriage equality. Nine of the 50 states in the US have done the same. President Jose Mujica's ruling Broad Front majority is expected to institute the law within 10 days, making it possible for couples to adopt children, undergo in-vitro fertilization procedures, as well as unilaterally request and be granted a divorce.