Recently in International News Category

Egypt presidential poll bans on candidates upheld

| No Comments

Ten candidates who had applied to run in the Egyptian presidential election have lost their appeals against disqualification, officials say.

A judicial panel found no new evidence was offered by the hopefuls, including ex-spy chief Omar Suleiman and Muslim Brotherhood leader Khairat al-Shaer, BBC said.

A conservative Salafist, Hazem Abu Ismail, also lost his appeal. The three were considered front runners.

The outcome was largely expected after the candidates appealed the commission's Saturday ruling, the Los Angeles Times said.

The failed appeal has added to a chaotic presidential race and led to fear that Islamists may ignite street protests to upset the nation's transition to democracy after last year's toppling of President Hosni Mubarak.

The decision reshapes the election, BBC said.

Ismail and hundreds of his backers held a sit-in Tuesday night outside the election commission's headquarters, chanting "God is great." Clerics called for calm while scuffles occurred with police, the Times said.

A final list of candidates will be published on 26 April, when the election campaign officially begins.

The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which assumed presidential powers after Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down by an uprising last year, is due to hand over to the new president on July 1, BBC said.

EU court: UK can send 5 terror suspects to US

| No Comments

Britain can extradite a radical Muslim cleric and four other suspects to the United States to face terrorism charges, Europe's human rights court ruled Tuesday.

The case centering on Mustafa Kamal Mustafa, also know as Abu Hamza al-Masri, considered Britain's most recognizable extremist, has been closely watched as a sign of Europe's view on tough U.S. prisons, The Associated Press said.

The ruling was viewed as one of the most important court decisions on the prosecution of terrorism suspects since the Sept. 11 attacks, the New York Times said, even though the defendants could not be extradited before further legal procedures were completed.

"Detention conditions and length of sentences of five alleged terrorists would not amount to ill-treatment if they were extradited to the U.S.A.," the judges said.

Before Tuesday's ruling, lawyers acting for Hamza said they would argue at the European court, which is based in Strasbourg, France, that the prospect of an American prison term of 50 years or more for their client would be a breach of his human rights.

Based on charges filed in the United States, Hamza and four other suspects could get lifelong jail terms in America without parole in maximum-security conditions, including concrete furniture, timed showers, tiny cell windows and no outside communications, the Times said.

The court, however, ruled that it would be legal for Britain to extradite all five suspects.

Hamza is a distinctive figure, with one eye and a steel hook in place of his right hand, as a result of injuries to his arms and face sustained in what he has described as land-mine explosions while fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the Times said.

The European court said Tuesday that American authorities would consider Hamza's detention in the supermax prison "impossible because of his disabilities," notably the "amputation of his forearms."

The court postponed a ruling in a sixth case while awaiting further detail about the suspect's psychological condition.

Khalid al-Fawwaz, a Saudi citizen, and Adel Abdul Bary, who is Egyptian, are wanted over the 1988 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, The Associated Press said. Al-Fawwaz, allegedly Osama bin Laden's representative in Britain, has been charged with more than 269 counts of murder.

James Murdoch steps down as head of BSkyB

| No Comments

James Murdoch stepped down as chairman of British Sky Broadcasting Tuesday, saying he could become "a lightning rod" for attacks on the satellite network following his role in a phone-hacking scandal, the Washington Post said.

In a letter to the board of BSkyB, Britain's largest pay TV provider, Murdoch said: "I am aware that my role as chairman could become a lightning rod for BSkyB and I believe that my resignation will help to ensure that there is no false conflation with events at a separate organization."

Murdoch will remain on the BSkyB board as a non-executive director. He will be replaced by Nicholas Ferguson, the company's previous deputy chairman, the Post said.

News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch said in a statement with Chase Carey, News Corp.'s chief operating officer, he is grateful for James Murdoch's successful leadership of BSkyB. "He has played a major role in propelling the company into the market-leading position it enjoys today," the statement said.

News Corporation owns nearly 40 percent of BSkyB's stock, the New York Times said. The company had hoped to acquire the rest to strengthen its hold on the British satellite television business.

Along with its news division, BSkyB also operates lucrative sports, movie and general entertainment channels, the Times said.

Tuesday marked the second time this year James Murdoch quit a senior corporate role, the Post said. In February, Murdoch resigned as the chief executive of News International, the newspaper arm of News Corp., saying he wanted to focus on global television operations.

In a statement, Ferguson thanked Murdoch for his "outstanding contribution" and said that "the board's support for James and belief in his integrity remain strong."

French oil major Total dismissed fears on Wednesday of a blast at its Elgin North Sea platform, despite explosive natural gas is bubbling less than 100 meters from a flare left burning when workers had to evacuate the site.

"The platform could become an explosion waiting to happen," said engineering industry consultant John Shanks.

Total said the flare, which normally burns to regulate gas pressure at safe levels, had not been shut down when the platform was evacuated Sunday, Reuters said.

"We have not precisely identified the cause of the incident," a spokesman for Total in Paris said.

A Total UK spokesman in Aberdeen said the flare was on a separate platform from the leak, though only a short distance away, Reuters said.

"The leak is on the wellhead platform and the flare is on the Processing, Utilities and Quarters platform. There is a gap of 90 meters (300 feet) between the two," he said.

The leak developed in a well that workers were in the process of capping and abandoning, the New York Times said. The Elgin platform produces about 3 percent of Britain's total gas output but has a reputation for being troublesome because of the unusually high pressure in the undersea gas reservoir that it taps, the article said.

The firm warned on Tuesday it could take six months to halt the flow of gas, and analysts' opinions were divided on how serious the leak might be, Reuters said.

"Under normal conditions, the deeper the leak, the more difficult remedial work will be," Shanks said.

Major earthquake shakes Mexico

| 1 Comment

A major 7.4 magnitude earthquake with epicenter on Mexico's Pacific Coast shook central southern Mexico on Tuesday, causing buildings to sway and sending workers and residents to the streets.

Mexico's National Seismological Survey said the epicenter of the quake was 15 miles east of Ometepec, Guerrero and 10.9 miles underground.

The initial quake near the borders of Oaxaca and Guerrero states was followed by a less powerful, magnitude-5.1 aftershock that also was felt in the capital, Fox News said.

Angel Aguirre, governor of Guerrero, said he had received reports of 500 homes damaged, with some of them knocked down. Cell phone lines went down and traffic snarled in Mexico City moments after the quake, which lasted more than a minute. Some buildings in the capital's trendy district of Condesa were cracked by the quake, the Chicago Tribune said.

Lauren Villagran, a freelance reporter for Fox News Latino, who was walking in the streets of central Mexico City during the quake, told Fox News Latino that there doesn't seem to be major damage.

"Buildings shook, some windows have broken, the facades of some buildings have crumbled, some transformers busted," Villagran said. "The ground started to move, then rocked violently. As many as six aftershocks were felt around the city," she said.

Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard tweeted that there was no visible damage from the air after a helicopter ride and Mexican President Felipe Calderon tweeted that there was no initial reports of major damage.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the inland earthquake would not generate a destructive widespread tsunami, but there was the possibility of some local tsunami effects, the Tribune said.

A railroad traffic controller's error was likely a key factor in the head-on collision of two trains that killed 16 people and he will face criminal charges, a prosecutor said Monday.

The investigation so far indicates that the controller, one of two detained for questioning, made a mistake while setting the mechanisms routing the trains, sending one the wrong way down the track at high speed, prosecutor Tomasz Ozimek said. The man will be charged with unintentionally causing a railroad accident, he said in an Associated Press article.

The two men were in charge of traffic on the route at the time the crash occurred Saturday night near the town of Szczekociny, Ozimek said. The collision left the front cars of the trains in a mangled heap, toppled others, and injured more than 50 people, a Washington Post article said.

Ozimek refused to reveal further details of the two controllers, who have not been charged with any crimes.

One of the victims was identified as a Russian citizen, Ozimek said. An American is also among the dead.

One train was traveling from the eastern city of Przemsyl to Warsaw in the north, while the other - an intercity train traveling 60 mph on the wrong track - was heading south from Warsaw to Krakow.

Prosecutors and railway traffic experts were still inspecting the site and the wreckage as they gathered evidence. Emergency workers continued to search the area in precaution to be certain no bodies were left in the wreckage.

The wreck is Poland's worst train accident in over 20 years, the Post said. The nation began two days of mourning for the victims Monday, lowering the Polish flag to half-staff at public buildings and canceling entertainment and sporting events.

Russian and Urkrainian security services foiled a plot to assassinate Vladimir Putin, the San Francisco Chronicle said Monday.

Russian pro-government Channel One television said Urkrainian special services in the Black Sea port of Odessa had held two men linked to a group seeking an Islamist state in Russia's North Caucasus, a Chicago Tribune article said.

"I can officially confirm that they were preparing an (assassination) attempt on Putin," Marina Ostapenko, a spokeswoman for the Russian SBU service said.

Ostapenko said two men were under arrest. One was captured in Odessa after being wounded in an explosion at an apartment which also killed another alleged plotter.
The second man, who was on the international wanted list, was arrested a month later.

The Tribune said several assassination attempts have been reported on Putin since he became president in 2000 but such reports have rarely made a big impact on Russia.

Channel One said the plotters had been planning to travel to Moscow to kill Putin but the Ukrainian special services had been tipped off by the security service, which Putin once headed.

"Our final goal was to go to Moscow and attempt to assassinate Putin," a man described as one of the plotters said on Channel One. "Our deadline was after the election of the president of Russia."

Putin, 59, is seeking a return to the Kremlin amid the largest challenge to his 12-year rule after fraud allegations at parliamentary polls in December sparked the largest mass demonstrations against the government since the 1990s. Protesters wore white ribbons Sunday and joined hands in a bid to encircle central Moscow, including the Kremlin.

Three polls published last week show Putin winning more than 50 percent, the level needed to avoid a runoff, the article said.

Some Russians reacted with skepticism, the Tribune said, making clear on social network sites that they did not believe the report or suggesting the timing of the announcement was to attract sympathy for Putin.

"Everything is being done to assure Putin's victory," Gennady Gudkov, a lawmaker for the opposition Just Russia party and a deputy head of the lower house of parliament's security committee said. "That's why information is being dumped so that everyone forgets about the mass protest rallies."

South Korea conducted live-fire military drills near its disputed sea boundary with North Korea Monday, stirring already high tensions between the two nations.

North Korea did not carry out threats of a "merciless" attack, the Star Tribune said. The nation instead intends to focus on internal stability two months after the death of Kim Jong Il and prepare for nuclear disarmament talks with the United States this week.

The talks will focus on six-nation aid, which North Korea pulled out of in 2009. The U.S. and its allies are demanding that the North demonstrate its sincerity in ending its nuclear weapons program before proceeding with the talks.

Tensions are expected to remain high the Tribune said as American forces conduct military exercises with ally South Korea over the next few months.

South Korea's drills took place Monday in an area of the Yellow Sea that was the target of a North Korean artillery attack in 2010 that killed four South Koreans. North Korea did not threaten similar South Korean firing drills in January but called the latest exercise a "premeditated military provocation" and warned it would retaliate for what it considered an attack on its territory.

North Korea claims the waters around the five South Korean islands, the New York Times said. The area, currently patrolled by South Korean warships, has been site of skirmishes between the two navies in 1999, 2002 and 2009. The North Korean barrage in November 2010 propelled the South Korean artillery in Yeonpyeong to launch a counterattack on gun positions on the North Korean shore.

North Korea is prepared for a "total war," and the drills will lead to a "complete collapse" of ties between the Koreas, the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in a statement carried Monday by the official Korean Central News Agency.

Car bombs target embassies in India, Georgia

| No Comments

Bombers targeted staff at Israeli embassies in India and Georgia Monday, wounding four people.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the attacks on Iran, and its Lebansese proxy, Hezbollah, a Star Tribune article said.

"Iran is behind these attacks and it is the largest terror exporter in the world," he said in a BBC article.

Netanyahu said this is the second attempt of terrorism against innocent victims and blamed Iran for prevented plots to attack Israeli targets in Thailand and Azerbaijan.

In Dehli, witnesses said a motorcyclist placed a device on an embassy car before it exploded, a BBC article said. A bomb in Tbilisi, Geogria was defused.

Iran's news agency Irna quoted the country's ambassador Mehdi Nabizadeh in India denying any involvement, saying "any terrorist attack is condemned and we strongly reject the untrue comments by an Israeli official."

"These accusations are untrue and sheer lies, like previous times," he said.

The Tribune article said the attacks Monday may elevate already high tensions between Iran, who is accused of developing a nuclear weapons program, and Israel, who fears such a program would be a threat to the Jewish state.

Israeli officials comments have raised concern Israel may be preparing a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.

U.S. embassy closes in Syria

| No Comments

BEIRUT -- The United States closed its Syrian embassy Monday in an attempt to remove President Bassar al- Assad from power.

The embassy closed as a result of increased violence and instability in Syria and had been reducing staff for weeks, said a New York Times article. Both the Assad government and rebel forces see armed conflict as the only way to solve the 11-month old conflict.

William Hague, British foreign secretary, said Syria is "a doomed regime as well as a murdering regime" after the British ambassador was recalled to the Syrian capital Demascus Monday. "There is no way it can recover its credibility internationally," he said.

President Barak Obama said Assad will be out in a matter of time, reported the Star Tribune.

"We have been relentless in sending a message that it is time for Assad to go," he said in an interview with NBC. "This is not going to be a matter of if, it's going to be a matter of when."

Though diplomatic efforts to resolve the uprising were hindered at the U.N. through vetoes by China and Russia, the actions by the U.S. and Britain signaled that Western Powers have no intention in engaging Assad.

Violence is largest in Homs, the third-largest city in Syria, where 200 people were said to have died Friday and Saturday and at least 40 more people on Monday.

Despite increased pressure from the U.S., Obama said that a negotiated solution with recourse to outside military intervention was possible.

White House spokesperson Jay Carney later said that the administration was taking "no options off the table."

"We need to act to allow a peaceful political transition to go forward before the regime's escalating violence puts a political solution out of reach," Carney said.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the International News category.

Analysis is the previous category.

Local News is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.