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30 March, 2015


Nigeria police use tear gas against election protesters in Rivers state

Some 2,000 women protesting against the conduct of elections in Nigeria’s Rivers state were tear-gassed on Monday, AFP reported. The demonstrators tried to register their complaints with electoral officials, but police and soldiers prevented the women from the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) from entering the electoral commission offices in the state capital, Port Harcourt. The APC alleges that the ruling People’s Democratic Party and election officials rigged the presidential and parliamentary election, which was held on Saturday and Sunday. Rivers state is seen as a key battleground for the presidential election, in which APC candidate Muhammadu Buhari is fighting the PDP’s President Goodluck Jonathan.


70 schools charged in Pakistan for failing barbed wire test

A northwestern Pakistani province is taking criminal action against 70 schools that have failed to tighten security following a December high school attack that killed 132 children. The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa made it compulsory for all schools to hire armed guards, raise the height of boundary walls with barbed wire and install closed-circuit television, Reuters said. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Education Minister Mohammad Atif Khan described the 70 schools taken to task in Kohat, south of Peshawar, as “dangerous.”


US-led coalition launches 7 airstrikes in Iraq

The US-led coalition launched seven airstrikes in Iraq against Islamic State militants since early Sunday, Reuters said. The airstrikes were conducted near Mosul, Sinjar, Tal Afar and Tikrit, according to the Combined Joint Task Force. Two units of militant jihadist fighters were hit, as well as a fighting position, several buildings and other targets, the military said Monday.


Russian investigators identify possible mastermind behind Nemtsov’s murder – report

The Russian Investigative Committee has identified a man who can be the organizer and mastermind of the killing of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, Kommersant daily reported, citing a source. The man, known as “Ruslik,” reportedly gave a gun and a car to those suspected of perpetrating Nemtsov’s murder in central Moscow on February 27. He had also reportedly promised that they would get 5 million rubles (about $85,200) each. Police have arrested five suspects in the case.


Twin car bombings kill at least 11 people in Baghdad suburb

Car bombings in a Baghdad suburb on Monday killed at least 11 people and wounded 26 people, AP reported. The attacks came hours after the arrival of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for talks with the Iraqi officials. Two explosive-laden cars went off simultaneously in a commercial area of the Shiite-dominated Husseiniyah district in northeastern Baghdad shortly before noon.


Yugoslav tribunal revokes provisional release of Serbian nationalist Seselj

Appeals judges at the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal said on Monday that Serbian far-right leader Vojislav Seselj has breached conditions of his provisional release and must return to the court’s cellblock in The Hague, AP reported. Seselj is accused of recruiting paramilitary forces during the Balkan wars. He was released in November for medical treatment in Serbia. After Seselj said in Belgrade that he would not return voluntarily, prosecutors claimed the statement breached conditions of his release.


Russia optimistic on chances for Iran nuclear deal

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov voiced optimism on Monday about talks in Lausanne over Teheran’s nuclear program, TASS reported. He described the latest session of the six powers and Iran on Monday as “extremely intensive and very deep.” The main thing that “causes optimism is determination of all ministers to achieve results… within the current session,” Reuters quoted him as saying. The foreign ministers of Iran and six world powers met on Monday in a final push for a preliminary nuclear accord less than two days before a deadline. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was due to leave Lausanne on Monday for pre-planned meetings in Moscow but could return to Switzerland for talks on Tuesday.


Solar Impulse flies to China’s Chongqing on 5th flight

Solar Impulse 2 took off from Myanmar’s second biggest city, Mandalay, early on Monday and headed for China’s Chongqing. This is the fifth flight of the aircraft’s journey to circumnavigate the globe powered solely by the sun. The team spent more than a week waiting in Mandalay for weather conditions to improve in southwestern China for what will be one of the most challenging legs of the round-the-world attempt so far, the Local said. Bertrand Piccard, one of the two Swiss pilots of the solar-powered plane, will have to battle extreme cold of down to minus 20 degrees Celsius in the cockpit.


Tehran asks Turkish envoy to explain Erdogan comments on Iran’s role in Yemen

Iran has asked Turkey’s charge d’affaires in Tehran to explain remarks by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, critical of Iran’s role in Yemen. The top diplomat has been “invited” to respond to “the Islamic republic’s objection and regret over Erdogan’s inappropriate and unusual comments,” according to Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham. On Thursday, Erdogan demanded that “Iran and the terrorist groups must withdraw” from Yemen. He also cited Tehran’s role coordinating Shiite militia groups in the fight against Islamic State jihadists in Iraq, AFP reported.


Slovenian PM tells defense minister to quit over telecoms operator sale

Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar has told his defense minister to resign in a row over the sale of state-owned telecoms operator Telekom Slovenia, Reuters reported. Cerar expects Janko Veber to quit for ordering the army’s secret service to analyze the possible security implications of the privatization. Cerar will ask parliament to dismiss Veber unless the minister resigns by Tuesday. Veber, a member of the smallest coalition party, the center-left Social Democrats, said he would not resign.


Russia’s soldier charged with killing family to be tried by Russian military court in Armenia – MP

Valery Permyakov, a Russian soldier charged with deserting a military base in Gyumri, Armenia and murdering a local seven-member family, will be tried by a Russian military court in Armenia, said Leonid Slutsky, head of the Russian State Duma’s committee for CIS affairs, as cited by Armenia Now. Issues concerning the Gyumri murder will also be discussed during Russian State Duma Chairman Sergey Naryshkin’s official visit to Armenia that begins on Monday, Slutsky added.


Russian FM to leave Iran talks, return to Moscow

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold meetings later on Monday in Switzerland’s Lausanne as part of negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, Tass reported, citing diplomatic sources. Then he is expected to return to Moscow to hold talks scheduled for today. However, Lavrov may go back to Lausanne on Tuesday, RIA Novosti quoted the deputy head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s press department, Maria Zakharova, as saying.


Australia govt orders airlines to ensure 2 crew on flight deck at all times

Australian airlines must ensure that two crew are on the flight deck at all times, AFP quoted Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss as saying on Monday. In response to the Germanwings disaster, there has been an agreement that airlines in Australia will move immediately to adjust their flight operation procedures, Truss said. Last week, the European Aviation Safety Agency recommended that at least two people be present in the cockpit of planes at all times.


Strong quakes hit off South Pacific islands

A series of strong earthquakes struck off the neighboring South Pacific Ocean states of Samoa and Tonga on Monday, Reuters reported. A number of 6.8 magnitude quakes struck southwest of the Samoan capital, Apia, in waters between the two island states of Tonga and Samoa, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS). There were no reports of damage in Samoa, while the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there is no tsunami threat. Just hours earlier, a major 7.7 quake struck off the coast of Papua New Guinea, near the town of Rabaul, in the northeast.


Another blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh

A blogger was hacked to death in the Bangladesh capital on Monday, in the latest brutal attack on the independent writers, AFP reported. Two men have been arrested over the murder immediately after the attack. It comes just weeks after an American atheist blogger was also hacked to death in Dhaka, police said. Washiqur Rahman, 27, was known to write “against religious fundamentalism,” according to another social media writer.


Greece ‘not backing down’ on aim to renegotiate its debt

Greece has not given up on its aim to renegotiate its debt to render it manageable, Reuters quoted the deputy finance minister assaying on Monday. As talks between Athens and its lenders on reforms to unlock aid continue, the government “has not abandoned any claim regarding its aim to make the country's debt viable,” Dimitris Mardas said. Greece’s public debt burden reached more than 177 percent of national output last year, and the new government promised to demand that its eurozone partners let it write off a large part of that debt.


Airstrikes kill 30 in Yemen - reports

Saudi Arabia and its allies have bombed rebel positions in a new operation in Yemen, killing 13 servicemen and wounding more than 70, TASS reported, citing Yemeni government media. Arab coalition war planes reportedly carried out a fifth straight night of airstrikes against Shiite rebels near the capital, Sanaa, and other parts of the country. Fighter jets flew over Sanaa from 9pm until around dawn, AFP reported.


​Ex-Israeli PM found guilty on corruption charges.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who served in 2006-2009, has been found guilty in the retrial for in the ‘cash envelopes affair’. The ruling came on Monday by the Jerusalem District Court. In 2014 Olmert was sentenced to six years' imprisonment for accepting bribes linked to a real-estate deal.


Russian Kamchatka volcano spews out 10-km column of ash

The Russian Shiveluch volcano, located in the far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula, pumped ash up to 10-km in the air on Monday night, TASS reported. “According to seismic data Shiveluch spewed a column of ash 10 km above sea level. It spread in the north western direction for up to 40 km before clearing,” Kamchtka’s geophysical service of the Russian Academy of Science said. No residential areas are located in the path of the ash. The Shiveluch volcano is one of the largest and most active in the area. It became active in 2009. Since then, several seismic events have been registered in the region, indicators of possible major eruptions.


​‘Unrealistic options’ & sanctions dragging Iran nuclear talks – source

The issue of sanctions against Iran has not been resolved and remains a key obstacle at the nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 group, TASS quoted an Iranian diplomatic source as saying. “Some members of the Iran Six are proposing absolutely unrealistic options, which are unacceptable to us,” the source said. “We are trying to align our positions closer on this aspect.” Sanctions are “dragging out the process,” the source added. Meanwhile, the US Secretary of State John Kerry said that reaching a deal with Iran is doubtful at this stage. The Iran nuclear talks include the P5+1 powers – China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US, plus Germany. They are aimed at resolving the long-running dispute over Iran’s nuclear program. Kerry told RIA Novosti that he discussed the situations in Ukraine, Yemen and Syria with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. “We had a good discussion with Lavrov,” he said.


7.7 earthquake strikes near Papua New Guinea – USGS

A 7.7-magnitude earthquake has struck off the coast of Papua New Guinea, with the epicenter located 54 kilometers southeast of Kokopo, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS). The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has warned that “hazardous tsunami waves are possible for coasts located within 1,000 km (620 miles) of the earthquake epicenter along the coasts of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.” It added that no major destructive tsunami was expected in the Pacific. Tsunami waves reaching 1-3 meters (3-9 feet) above the tide level are possible in Papua New Guinea, the center said. Meanwhile, Al Jazeera quoted a witness in the township of Rabaul as saying that “the earthquake shook for about five minutes” but caused no visible damage to buildings. Elsewhere, there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.