Sunday, December 25, 2011
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
The announcement is expected after a committee meeting on Friday, according to Kyodo News agency and the Yomiuri newspaper. A spokesman for Lockheed Martin said it had not been informed of any decision and, pending the formal announcement, officials refused to comment on which plane was favoured.
'We would like to announce our decision as soon as possible,' Defence Minister Yasuo Ichikawa said in response to the reports. He said the government is in the 'final stages' of reaching a conclusion.
Japan is expected to buy 40 to 50 jets for as much as US$8 billion (S$10.5 billion), though the value of the deal depends on what package Japan chooses. The Yomiuri report said Japan will budget for the first four aircraft in 2012, with deliveries starting in 2016
A gunman has opened fire in the centre of the Belgian city of Liege, killing at least three people and wounding 75.
The man also threw grenades into a crowded square from a rooftop before killing himself, reports say.
The attacker was named as Nordine Amrani. He was known to police for firearms offences.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Syria has held local elections despite continuing violence between security and opposition forces.
Authorities said the vote had been freer than in previous years, but the opposition called for a boycott and launched a general strike.
Turnout was expected to be very low. Correspondents say many Syrian voters would not risk going to the polls.
Fighting is said to have continued in several cities, with at least 20 people reported killed on Monday.
The Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), a network of opposition activists, said the deaths had occurred in Idlib in the north, Homs and Hama further south, and in a suburb of the capital, Damascus.
The group said four women and two children were among the dead.
Fierce fighting is also reportedly continuing in the southern province of Deraa.
On Sunday, activists said up to 18 people had been killed across the country - including 11 in Homs and Hama.
The UN estimates that more than 4,000 people have died in the nine-month uprising, including 307 children.
The Syrian government says it is fighting armed groups. Many army defectors have joined the opposition in recent months.
Reports from Syria are difficult to verify as foreign journalists are unable to move around the country freely.
The Syrian state news agency reported people flocking to polling stations.
But in opposition strongholds activists said there were few signs that an election was even happening, and almost no-one was voting, reported the BBC's Jonathan Head in neighbouring Turkey.
In these places shops remained shut on the second day of an indefinite general strike called by the opposition, reports say.
The authorities said Monday's polls were part of reforms being introduced in response to the protests.
"The new election law contains the necessary guarantees for a democratic, transparent and honest election," the head of the elections committee, Khalaf al-Ezzawi, told state media.
About 43,000 candidates have been competing for more than 17,000 seats in local councils across Syria.
Zeina, a voter in Damascus, told AFP news agency: "I voted because we want to contribute to the reforms " pledged by President Bashar al-Assad.
But our correspondent says the vote means little in much of the country, where going out to cast a ballot can be too dangerous.
He says Homs - Syria's third-largest city - resembles a war zone, with gun battles occurring every day between army units and lightly armed opposition forces.
A resident of the city told the Arabic news channel al-Jazeera: "I didn't even know an election was taking place.
"The people of Homs have removed every picture of Bashar al-Assad from the streets, so don't expect to see pictures of candidates who are no more than stooges of the regime."
The opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) has warned of an impending final assault on Homs by security forces.
It also said that the general strike launched on Sunday was being widely observed in 12 provinces.
President Assad is under international pressure to end the continuing crackdown on anti-government protesters.
United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay is due to brief the Security Council on the situation in Syria later on Monday.
On Saturday, the Arab League is due to discuss Damascus's conditional acceptance of the league's plan to send in monitors to assess the violence.
Last month the league suspended Syria's membership in protest at the continuing crackdown and also imposed economic sanctions.
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Monday, December 12, 2011
Pakistan may continue its blocking of Nato convoys into Afghanistan for several weeks, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has told the BBC.
Pakistan stopped the convoys in protest at US air strikes which killed 24 of its troops at two checkpoints on the Afghan border last month.
Mr Gilani refused to rule out closing Pakistan's airspace to the US.
He also denied rumours President Asif Ali Zardari had suffered a stroke and the army was trying to oust him.
Mr Gilani said Mr Zardari was making a rapid improvement in hospital in Dubai, but would need two weeks' rest before returning home.
The air strikes on 26 November marked a low point in relations between Washington and Islamabad, which have long been strained by the US-led military campaign against militants in Afghanistan.
In a wide-ranging interview with the BBC, Mr Gilani said Pakistan and the US needed to trust each other better.
"Yes there is a credibility gap, we are working together and still we don't trust each other," Mr Gilani said.
"I think we have to improve our relationship so that... we should have more confidence in each other."
Nato forces in Afghanistan rely significantly on overland supply routes from the Pakistani sea port of Karachi, which enter Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass.
Hundreds of lorries have been camped out next to border crossings, waiting for the crisis to blow over.
Asked about the state of health of Mr Zardari, Mr Gilani denied that the president had written a letter of resignation, as claimed by a source in Dubai.
"Why should he write?" asked Mr Gilani. "He has the backing and support of the entire parliament."
Dismissing speculation about a quiet coup, he said: "Rumours are rumours."
The Pakistani prime minister also denied a Pakistani Taliban claim that it was engaged in peace talks with his government.
But he added: "Whosoever surrenders and denounces violence, they are acceptable to us."
Nato has apologised for the air strikes, calling them a "tragic unintended incident".
In the aftermath, Pakistan also demanded the US leave the Shamsi air base in Balochistan.
Pakistani officials have confirmed that US forces have now vacated the base, meeting a deadline.
US officials could not be reached immediately for comment about the report.
Shamsi was widely believed to have been used in covert CIA drone attacks against Taliban and al-Qaeda targets in north-west Pakistan's tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, but correspondents say it had not been used to launch drones for some time.
Vacating Shamsi is not expected to significantly curtail drone attacks in Pakistan, according to an Associated Press news agency report.
Mr Gilani also said he would investigate the blocking of the BBC's international news TV channel, BBC World News, by Pakistani cable television operators. Operators say the move is in response to a documentary broadcast by the channel entitled Secret Pakistan.
A BBC spokesperson said: "We welcome the prime minister's support of free speech and promise to investigate this ban. We call on the government to carry out an investigation rapidly and for BBC services to be restored in Pakistan.
Friday, December 9, 2011
The Honduran Congress has voted to ban motorcyclists from riding with passengers in a bid to curb a spate of drive-by killings.
The move follows two high-profile murders this week, both blamed on gunmen on motorbikes.
Congress also approved a wiretapping law proposed as part of efforts to tackle crime but which has raised privacy concerns.
Honduras has the world's highest murder rate: 82 per 100,000 people a year.
During a session held in private because of security fears, legislators approved a decree limiting the number of people allowed on a motorbike to just one.
The measure, which will last for six months, was requested by President Porfirio Lobo, whose government is facing rising crime.
"We know it is going to affect a certain part of the population," congressman Erick Rodriguez was quoted as saying by El Heraldo newspaper.
But the country had to take steps against hired killers, he said.
Soldiers on patrol
Motorcycles have been used in several high-profile murders.
Journalist Luz Marina Paz and her driver were shot dead on Tuesday as they drove through the capital, Tegucigalpa.
The following day men on motorcycles killed former government security adviser Alfredo Landaverde in his car.
Honduras is a key transit country for cocaine smuggled from South America and on to the US market.
Increasing encroachment by Mexican drug cartels, as well as the presence of violent street gangs, have increased insecurity in the country.
In November, the Honduran authorities began deploying troops to carry out policing duties.
The police force itself is undergoing a purge amid efforts to root out officers with links to organised crime.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Syria's president has said that he has given no orders for security forces to use violence against people involved in a 10-month uprising against him.
In an interview with the US network ABC, Bashar al-Assad said he did not own the security forces or the country.
He cast doubts on reports of brutality and said he felt no guilt about what was happening.
At least 4,000 people have been killed since the uprising began in March, the UN estimates.
Syria blames the violence on "armed criminal gangs".
Mr Assad's interview comes a day after the US announced that its ambassador in Syria, Robert Ford, would return to Damascus after he was withdrawn in October because of security concerns.
France's ambassador returned on Monday.
UN 'not credible'
Responding to questions from veteran presenter Barbara Walters about the brutality of the crackdown, Mr Assad said the security forces were not his, nor did he command them.
"There was no command, to kill or to be brutal," he said.
"I don't own them, I am president, I don't own the country so they are not my forces."
When challenged about reports of house-to-house arrests, including of children, Mr Assad said the sources could not be relied upon.
"We have to be here to see. We don't see this. So we cannot depend on what you hear," he said.
The United Nations, which has said the Syrian government committed crimes against humanity, was not credible, Mr Assad said.
He described Syria's membership of the UN as "a game we play".
Mr Assad also denied feeling any guilt about the crackdown.
"I did my best to protect the people, so I cannot feel guilty," he said. "You feel sorry for the lives that has [sic] been lost. But you don't feel guilty - when you don't kill people."
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
The UN Human Rights Council has strongly condemned the violence in Syria and is to appoint a special investigator on the crackdown on anti-government protesters.
A council report on the violence is to be sent to the UN Secretary General.
The UN estimates 4,000 people have been killed during a crackdown on anti-government protests.
05 December 11 07:40 ET
Contaminated water has leaked from a treatment system at Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, with some potentially entering the sea, the plant's operator says.
Workers found the leak - caused by a crack in a concrete foundation - on Sunday morning.
Tepco said some 45 cubic metres (1,590 cubic feet) of water had escaped before sandbags blocked the leak.
Some water leaked into a drainage ditch that flowed out to sea, it added.
The nuclear plant was crippled by the 11 March earthquake and tsunami. Blasts occurred at four of the six reactors at the plant after key cooling systems were knocked out.
Work to bring the plant to a cold shutdown by the end of the year is continuing, and a 20km (12m) exclusion zone remains in place.
The leak occurred in a facility that removes radioactive caesium from seawater used to cool the reactors.
"We are currently assessing the situation and based on the amount of water which has leaked into the ocean there may or may not be an effect on the environment," Tepco spokesman Junichi Matsumoto said.
Tepco - Tokyo Electric Power Company - estimated about 300 litres of water (528 pints) had flowed into the drain before the leak was stopped.
It said the water contained caesium at levels ""roughly the same as or slightly higher" than seawater near the plant, and may also have contained strontium, which can cause bone cancer.
It said it would take several days to determine how much strontium was in the water
Monday, December 5, 2011
04 December 11 18:54 GMT
Former Brazil captain Socrates has died at the age of 57.
He had been in a critical condition with an intestinal infection since being admitted to intensive care on Friday at a hospital in Sao Paulo.
Socrates, who was widely regarded as one of the greatest ever midfielders, was moved onto a life support machine on Saturday.
He played in two World Cups, won 60 caps for his country between 1979 and 1986 and scored 22 goals.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
03 December 11 17:26 ET
At least 23 people have been killed in Syria as violence between army defectors and troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad swells, activists said.
The UN estimates 4,000 people have been killed during a crackdown on anti-government protests.
The Arab League gave Syria until Sunday to sign its initiative to end violence.
The continued unrest came as the US Vice President Joe Biden warned that events in Syria threatened to fan the flames of sectarian conflict.
Speaking in Istanbul, he described the situation in Syria as a "brutal repression".
"We stand with Turkey and a growing chorus of nations in calling for President Assad to step aside," he said.
He said he welcomed the UN Human Rights Council's condemnation of the violence, which Syrian authorities blame on armed gangs and foreign meddling.