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Showing posts from March 6, 2013

War crimes suspect takes lead as Kenya counts votes

By Yara Bayoumy and George Obulutsa

NAIROBI, March 5 (Reuters) - A politician wanted for war crimes in the Hague was leading in Kenya's presidential vote tally with about half of ballots counted on Tuesday in a country hoping to avert a repeat of ethnic carnage during its last vote five years ago.

Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, who faces international charges of crimes against humanity linked to the last election, was provisionally ahead of Prime Minister Raila Odinga by 53 to 42 percent with about half the votes counted.

But Kenyatta, son of the country's independence leader and one of Africa's richest men, could still fall short of victory as the count goes on. Odinga's camp says results are not yet in from many of his strongholds.

If no candidate secures a 50 percent majority, a second round would have to be held.

Kenyans hope the vote will restore their nation's image as one of Africa's most stable democracies after bloodshed at the last election, when mo…

Palestinian PM to resign after Obama's visit

RAMALLAH - Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad plans to resign after US President Barack Obama's visit to the region this month, a source said Tuesday.

Fayyad is facing pressure from President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party over the financial crisis engulfing the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), said the source, a member of Fatah central committee.

Fayyad, a US-educated economist, prefers to submit his resignation after Obama visits Israel and the West Bank on March 20 and 21, so Fayyad will not be appearing as taking a position against Obama, the source added.

Earlier this week, Palestinian Finance Minister Nabil Qasis resigned. Fayyad accepted the resignation of Qasis, but Abbas reportedly rejected it.

The PNA suffers a financial crisis with a shortfall exceeding $1 billion as donors reduced their grants and Israel stopped transferring Palestinian tax revenues regularly.

4 insurgents killed, 8 detained in Afghanistan

KABUL - Up to four insurgents have been killed and eight others detained in different operations carried out by Afghan forces and the NATO-led coalition troops, in the latest raids against insurgency in the war-hit country, the coalition forces said on Tuesday.

"An Afghan and coalition force killed four insurgents and wounded three others during a security operation in Ghaziabad district, Kunar province, yesterday," the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a press release.

Earlier Tuesday, a Taliban facilitator along with two other insurgents were captured in Kandahar city, the capital of southern Kandahar province 450 km south of Kabul, the release said.

"The insurgent is believed responsible for directing multiple suicide attacks against Afghan and coalition forces throughout Kandahar province. He has also been involved in the death of Afghan civilians," the release added.

In addition, the joint forces arrested a Taliban facilitator and detained fou…

North Korea’s nuclear test draws tough sanction plan from China, U.S., Pyongyang threatens to end 1953 ceasefire

UNITED NATIONS — The world moved closer to punishing North Korea for its latest nuclear test Tuesday as the United States introduced a draft resolution, backed by China, with new sanctions aimed at reining in Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs and preventing their export to other countries.

In response, Pyongyang threatened to cancel the 1953 cease-fire that ended the Korean War.

The draft resolution would subject North Korea “to some of the toughest sanctions imposed by the United Nations,” U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters. She called the scope of the sanctions “exceptional.”

The proposed resolution, worked out by Rice and China’s U.N. Ambassador Li Baodong over the last three weeks, reflects the growing anger of the U.N.’s most powerful body at North Korea’s defiance of three previous sanctions resolutions that demanded a halt to all nuclear and missile tests.

‘A very tough blow’ or ‘a step toward real change’?: Hugo Chavez as polarizing in death as he was as ruler of Venezuela

Reactions to the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez were as mixed, polemical and outsized as the leader was in life, with some saying his passing was a tragic loss and others calling it an opportunity for Venezuela to escape his long shadow.

Seen as a hero by some for his anti-U.S. rhetoric and gifts of cut-rate oil, others considered him a bully.

Before meeting Chavez for the first time nearly four years ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper called Chavez for how he saw him — the leader of an authoritarian petro state that he saw as a relic of the Cold War, one that was on the wrong side of sound economic theory and practice.

On Tuesday, Harper had kind words only for the Venezuelan people that the charismatic leftist had left behind.

Leo Ramirez/AFP/Getty ImagesA supporter of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez holds a portrait of him outside the Military Hospital in Caracas next to Army members on March 5, 2013.

The prime minister said he was offering his “condolences to the people of …

Obama ‘not bluffing’ about using military force in Iran if necessary: Biden

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said there remains “time and space” for diplomacy aimed at averting military action to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons power and that President Barack Obama is “not bluffing” when he says he’s considering military options.

Still, the pressure on Obama’s administration to move toward military action is growing as Iran advances its uranium enrichment capabilities, and U.S. lawmakers, Israel and Persian Gulf allies press for results.

Today, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said negotiating time is “finite.”

“The clock is ticking and the president has made that clear,” Kerry said in an interview in Doha with Andrea Mitchell of NBC News. “The president’s policy is that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon.”

Iran is using negotiations to “buy time” to pursue a nuclear weapons program, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday in a video address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference in Washington. Although Ir…

After 76 years, researchers say they’ve solved the mystery of the Hindenburg explosion: it was static

In a span of 37 seconds, the once luxurious and futuristic LZ 129 Hindenburg burst into flames and disintegrated, taking 36 lives on its way down.

In that time, the 245-metre long airship created a mystery that stood unsolved for 76 years. Theories of sabotage and possible mechanical errors circulated widely over that period, but a group of researchers claim to have solved the great riddle after all these decades.

It was static.

They’re not the first to float this solution, but aeronautical engineer Jem Stansfield and his South West Research Institute team have a series of explosions to back them up.

In a series of experiments, the team used various methods to blow up or set fire to a series of 24-metre scale models and observed the results.

Based on their trials, paired with eye-witness accounts, they’ve concluded that a thunderstorm ignited an uncontained buildup of hydrogen.

Soon after the airship became charged with static, hydrogen leaked into the ventilation shafts. Then, when groun…

Someone else is hitting al-Qaeda with drone strikes in Pakistan: U.S.

ISLAMABAD — When news of the two latest drone strikes emerged from Pakistan’s tribal belt in early February, it seemed to be business as usual by the CIA.

Media reports, citing unnamed Pakistani officials, carried typical details: Swarms of U.S. drones had swooped into remote areas, killing up to nine people, including two senior al-Qaeda commanders.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry lodged a protest with the U.S. Embassy.

Yet there was one problem, according to three U.S. officials with knowledge of the program: The United States did not carry out those attacks.

What took place in those remote tribal villages, far from outside scrutiny, is unclear. But the Americans’ best guess is that one, or possibly both, of the strikes were carried out by the Pakistani military and falsely attributed to the CIA to avoid criticism from the Pakistani public.

Washington steps up Africa intervention

March 05, 2013 - " - The Obama administration is “markedly widening its role” in the escalating French-led neo-colonial war in Mali, according to a report published Monday in the Wall Street Journal.

According to unnamed French officials cited in the report, US Reaper drones have been utilized to track down alleged Islamist fighters in the Ifoghas mountain region of northern Mali, supplying targeting information for some 60 French airstrikes in just the past week.

A force of 1,200 French troops alongside another 800 US-trained special forces soldiers from Chad and units of Mali’s own army have engaged in fierce clashes with the insurgents, who have operated in the region for many years and are well acquainted with its terrain.

Given the new, more violent stage of the war—which as of Sunday had claimed the lives of three French Foreign Legionnaires and dozens of African troops—the French Foreign Ministry announced last week that it would not withdraw its 4,000-strong expeditionary fo…