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16 August, 2013


Iraq would 'welcome' US drone strikes – Foreign Minister

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said on Friday that the country would consider allowing US drone strikes targeting Al-Qaeda and other terrorists within its borders. The remarks from Iraq’s top diplomat, which included an admission that security forces “cannot fight these terrorist networks through an increase in the number of checkpoints or putting more people on the street,” marked the first time that he has mentioned being open to drones, which Pakistani leaders have decried. Although US troops officially pulled out of Iraq in 2011, Zebari said that the nation’s leaders would “welcome American reconnaissance” with surveillance, particularly near its borders.


15 injured in suicide bomb attack on Afghani NATO convoy, including 8 troops

A suicide bomber has attacked a joint Afghan-International Security Assistance Force convoy on foot Friday in southern Kandahar, Afghanistan, injuring eight NATO troops, four Afghan soldiers and three others, Pajhwok Afghan News reported. The strike comes days after US General Joseph Dunford, commander of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, reiterated the need for some international presence to remain there after the end of 2014, when the bulk NATO troops are scheduled to leave the country.


17 dead, 525 rescued after boat sinks in Philippines

Seventeen people died after a ferry sank in the central Philippines on Friday. A further 525 people were rescued after the disaster. The boat collided with a cargo ship, a coastguard commander told local radio. “We don't know if there are still people missing,” said Rear Admiral Luis Tuason. He stated that there was a discrepancy between the number of people listed on the ferry's manifest and the actual number known to have died and been rescued. Around 700 people were thought to have been on the ferry, and some of the dead include children.


40 inmates injured in Bahrain prison riot crackdown

At least 40 Bahraini prisoners were injured when guards used batons, tear gas, pepper spray, and stun grenades to calm a protest against detention conditions, Reuters reported. The country’s Interior Ministry said security forces had restored order after a number of detainees rioted. According to Sayed al Muhafada of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, around 100 prisoners, most of whom are being held for terrorism offenses, were protesting over being deprived of family visits and other grievances.


Egypt cancels naval maneuvers with Turkey

Egypt has canceled naval maneuvers with Turkey to protest Ankara's intervention in Egyptian internal affairs, Al-Arabiya reported Friday. The previous day, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Egyptian leaders should stand trial for the military’s brutal crackdown against the sit-in protests. Hours later, the two countries announced they were recalling their ambassadors for consultations.


Peace talks are chance for alliance with Arab moderates – Israel

Israel’s top peace negotiator said Friday newly resumed talks with the Palestinians have provided an opening “to change the allies and alliances in the region.” There are parts in the Arab world that, “for them, re-launching the negotiations can be an opportunity… to work together against the extremists,” Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said, referring to the turmoil in Egypt and the Syrian conflict. Livni, speaking after meeting with visiting UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon on Friday, declined to say whether any progress at the talks had been made.


Poland to cut Afghan military contingent to 1,000

Poland will reduce the number of its soldiers stationed in Afghanistan in October to 1,000 from 1,600, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Friday. “We are reducing the number of Polish soldiers in Afghanistan because we are preparing to complete the withdrawal, as we announced, in 2014,” Reuters quoted Tusk as saying at an airbase in Nowy Glinnik, central Poland. Warsaw had previously announced that its 14th troop rotation in Afghanistan starting in October would be its last.


Assange: Snowden not interrogated in Russia

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has denied speculation that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was interrogated by Russian security services. Assange, who is standing as a candidate in Australia’s upcoming parliamentary election, told the country’s media that Snowden, who has been given temporary asylum in Russia, had not been interviewed by Russia’s Federal Security Service or any other Russian intelligence agency, AFP said. Assange said that WikiLeaks staff had been “watching the situation closely and the Russian authorities have behaved well.”


Four-fifths of Israel’s Jews say peace impossible - poll

Nearly 80 percent of Israel’s Jewish population believe a peace deal with the Palestinians is impossible, an opinion poll said. Asked whether “a final agreement” would be reached “that will put an end to the conflict,” 79.7 percent of respondents said no, and only 6.2 percent said yes. The poll, released Friday, was carried out by Israeli research institute Hagal Hahadash among a representative sample of 500 people, AFP reported. Of all respondents, 77.5 percent said they opposed the Israeli government's decision to release long-serving Palestinian prisoners alongside the resumed peace talks. Just 14.2 percent said they were in favor of the prisoner release.


Death toll from Beirut car bomb rises to 24 – Hezbollah

The death toll from Thursday’s car bombing in the southern Beirut stronghold of Hezbollah rose Friday to 24, said Ali Ammar, an MP for the Lebanese militant group. Lebanon’s health minister, Ali Hassan Khalil, said 21 bodies were taken to hospitals and another 335 people had been treated for their injuries, Reuters reported. Investigators are checking CCTV footage to see whether the van believed to be carrying the bomb had been driven by a suicide bomber, or detonated remotely.


Sri Lanka bans Fonterra milk products for two weeks

A Sri Lankan court on Friday issued an order preventing the sale, distribution and advertising of all Fonterra milk products for two weeks, a lawyer who appeared on behalf of the petitioner said. Fonterra was prevented “from wholesale, selling and distributing and or selling for agents of all brands of Fonterra products,” Reuters quoted Upul Jayasuriya, representing the National Health Services (Trade) Union, as saying.


US is complicating Syria peace conference – Moscow

US statements suggesting that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government is not ready to take part in the Geneva-2 international conference without preconditions are turning everything “upside down,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said Friday. It is the Syrian opposition that is not ready, Lukashevich said, adding that the US “pledged it would seek the consent of the opposition.” Russia proceeds from the assumption that “the Syrian government and opposition at the Geneva-2 meeting should agree on the methods of joint struggle against terrorists,” Lukashevich said. Syria has supported the Geneva communique of June 30, 2012 from the very beginning, the diplomat added.


CIA acknowledges Area 51 in newly declassified documents

The CIA has acknowledged the existence of Area 51, the US government’s secret weapons testing site, in newly declassified documents, George Washington University has revealed in its National Security Archive. It obtained a CIA history of the U-2 spy plane program and released it Thursday. The archive’s senior fellow, Jeffrey Richelson, reviewed the history in 2002, but all mentions of Area 51 had been redacted. He requested the history again in 2005 and received a version a few weeks ago with mentions of Area 51 restored. Officials have already acknowledged in passing the existence of the facility in central Nevada where the government is believed to test intelligence tools and weapons.


Blast injures 59 at Kyoto fireworks festival, 19 in critical condition

Fifty-nine people were injured, including 19 in critical condition, after an explosion ripped through a summer fireworks festival in the Japanese city of Kyoto on Thursday evening. Five people were in an especially serious condition, including a 10-year-old boy, Kyodo reported. The blast occurred around 7:30pm, just before the start of the fireworks display, at the main viewing venue on the Yura River in Fukuchiyama, across from the launch site.


Indian divers find three bodies as 18 sailors trapped in sunken submarine

Indian navy divers have found the bodies of three out of 18 sailors inside a Russian-built submarine that sank after it exploded in a Mumbai dockyard, a navy spokesman said. The explosions reportedly took place in the INS Sindhurakshak's forward section, where torpedoes and missiles are stored. There appeared to be no way the sailors could have survived the intensity of the blasts and fire in what is the Indian navy’s worst submarine accident since the 1971 war with Pakistan.


N. Zealand suspends air and rail services following 6.8 magnitude earthquake

An earthquake 6.8 on the Richter scale struck the northern tip of New Zealand's South Island on Friday. The depth of the quake was about 10 km, US Geological Survey reported. There have been reports of boulders coming down on highways and cellular networks down in Wellington. Train services have been suspended as authorities check the tracks. No major damage or casualties have been reported. There was no specific threat of a widespread tsunami, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.