Bersani fails to form Italian government
Pier Luigi Bersani, the Italian centre-left leader, said Thursday that his attempt to a form a government after last month’s inconclusive election had failed and that President Giorgo Napolitano will now have to decide what to do. Bersani has spent the last week consulting with political parties to try to find a way out of Italy’s political impasse. Italy’s February election resulted in deadlock and without an agreement Italy may have to head back to the polls. President Napolitano is to begin new consolations with parties on Friday morning.
UN creates first offensive military unit
The UN Security Council has unanimously approved the first ever “offensive” UN peacekeeping force to battle the insurgency in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The new unit of 2,500 troops will be made up of three infantry battalions, one artillery and one special force and a reconnaissance company with orders to “neutralize” and “disarm” militants in the east of the country. The UN will also deploy surveillance drones by July to monitor borders with Rwanda and Uganda to track the extremist activity. The resolution’s mandate to conduct “targeted offensive operations” has never been given to a peacekeeping mission before.
NATO ambassadors approve nomination of new Supreme Allied Commander
The North Atlantic Council has approved the nomination of US Air Force General Philip Breedlove to the post of Supreme Allied Commander Europe, the alliance announced on Thursday. Once the national confirmation processes have been completed, Breedlove will officially succeed US Admiral James Stavridis. The alliance says that the change of command ceremony at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers in Mons, Belgium is expected to take place in the Spring of 2013.
163 killed in South Sudan clashes
163 people including many rebels were killed in clashes in South Sudan, says the country’s military spokesman Col. Philip Aguer. As a result of fierce battles earlier this week 143 militia and 20 government forces were killed, 70 were wounded, Aguer said. Government forces captured an airstrip that the rebels have been using to import their military supplies, he added. South Sudan broke away from Sudan in 2011 and is still dealing with ethnic and tribal violence inside the country.
Major Sufi shrine blown up in Libyan capital-reports
Unidentified attackers bombed the Sidi Al-Andlusi mausoleum in Tripoli, a major shrine of a Sufi theologian from the 15th century protected under law as a national monument , residents said, Reuters reports. One person has been arrested and is under investigation, according to a local. The head of Tripoli’s local council, Sadat al-Badri, condemned the attack saying it is “against the ways of the Islamic religion” state LANA news agency reported. This is the first time a Sufi religious site has been targeted since attacks last spring and summer. Since the end of the 2011 war that brought down Muammar Gaddafi, ultra-conservative Islamists have targeted Sufi religious sites which they claim are idolatrous.
Decisive action needed on Slovenia – experts
Slovenia may repeat the Cyprus scenario, while “Italy and Spain have solid foundations and aren’t a cause for concern”, said the Deputy Secretary-General of the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Pier Carlo Padoan. According to him, Italy and Spain are based on “a sustainable system,” while Slovenia ” is a small country with a banking system that needs to get back on its feet.” The established restrictions on the capital movement “can be useful, but only in the short term” Padoan said according to ANSAmed news agency adding that the Cypriot crisis suggests “that EU needs a banking association, which would control and ensure the safety of deposits.” On Monday, the EU approved a deal on a €10 billion bailout aimed at keeping Cyprus in eurozone.
Myanmar president vows to ‘use force’ to stop riots
Myanmar President Thein Sein said Thursday that his government will use force if necessary to quell deadly religious rioting that started last week. In his first public comments on the violence, Sein warned that he would take every legal effort to stop “political opportunists and religious extremists,” as attacks on Muslims by Buddhist mobs continued in several towns. The religious unrest began March 20, with rioting Buddhists targeting minority Muslims in the central city of Meikhtila, killing at least 40 people and driving about 12,000 from their homes.
Syrian refugees riot at Jordan camp – UN
A riot has broken out at a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan after some of the refugees were told they could not return home, the UN refugee agency said. It is unclear how many refugees were involved in Thursday’s riot at the Zaatari camp, said Ali Bibi, a UNHCR liaison officer in Jordan. Jordanian authorities reportedly refused to let buses head to the Syrian border, and promised to organize the refugees’ return home at another time. No injuries were immediately reported.
Israel to strengthen medical teams at Syria border
The Israeli military is beefing up its medical teams deployed along the border with Syria, following several cases of wounded Syrians crossing the frontier to seek medical assistance. There have been “numerous incidents” in recent months in which Syrians wounded in the fighting in their country arrived at the frontier seeking first aid from Israeli medics, a military official said on Thursday. Eleven people were treated at Israeli hospitals, including one who died from his wounds on Wednesday. Others returned home after their conditions improved.
ECHR orders Estonia to pay 50,000 euro over 2007 Bronze Soldier protests
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Estonian authorities violated the rights of four plaintiffs when police dispersed protesters during the April 2007 removal of the Bronze Soldier monument in Tallinn. The court also ordered that the Estonian government pay 11,000 euro each to three of the plaintiffs, 14,000 euro to another, and 3,000 euro in court fees. A total of seven plaintiffs complained of ill-treatment, and said that they were deprived of liberty unlawfully and arbitrarily. The government or the plaintiffs could appeal the ruling.
Dozens of Egyptian protesters injured in Tahrir Square attack
Dozens of protesters were injured after unidentified men on motorcycles attacked and burned their tents at dawn in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, Al Arabiya reported Thursday. Protesters said the Interior Ministry and the police incited thugs to carry out the assault, and claimed they saw some policemen among the more than 30 attackers. They reportedly used Molotov cocktails to set fire to tents, and chased protesters.
Turkey deports 600 Syrians after refugee camp clashes – reports
Ankara has reportedly deported at least 600 Syrians staying at a refugee camp near the border following clashes with Turkish military police sparked by protests over living conditions. “These people were involved in yesterday’s violence,” a Turkish official told media. The security forces are still looking at the footage, and “if they see more they will deport them,” the official said.
S.African judge eases Pistorius bail restrictions
South African Judge Bert Bam has said Oscar Pistorius, who is charged with murdering his girlfriend, can leave South Africa, on certain conditions, to compete in international competitions. The Olympic and Paralympic athlete must provide authorities with his travel plans at least a week before he leaves the country, and must return his passport to the court within 24 hours of returning to South Africa. Pistorius’ lawyers said in the North Gauteng High Court on Thursday that he had no immediate plans to compete.
Russian president orders military exercises in Black Sea
President Vladimir Putin ordered the launch of military exercises in the Black Sea region on Thursday, his spokesperson said. Putin issued the order at 4:00am Moscow time (0000 GMT) as he flew back from an international summit in South Africa, the president’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.
Judge in Sarkozy probe receives bullet in letter
The judge who charged French ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy has received a bullet and a death threat in the mail, officials said Thursday. The letter was sent to Jean-Michel Gentil, the most prominent of the three judges investigating the case, on Wednesday, according to the magistrate union’s statement. The threatening letter was accompanied by blank cartridges, AFP reported. The letter, mailed to a Bordeaux office, also contained threats against other magistrates. Police were called in to investigate.
24 killed in Peru bus accident
At least 24 people, most of them miners, were killed when their bus plunged into a ravine in Peru on Wednesday, police said. A comparable number were reportedly injured in the accident. The bus departed from Orocampa town in Castilla province with 48 passengers on board, and was traveling along a highway in the southern region of Arequipa, 1,000km south of the capital Lima. Most of the passengers were going to take part in Holy Week festivities. The accident occurred on a highway linking Arequipa and Puno, when the bus reportedly skidded off the road and plunged more than 100 meters into a ravine.
Kyrgyz parliament to vote on NATO transit agreement
An agreement between Bishkek and NATO on the ground transport of the alliance’s military cargo to and from Afghanistan has been submitted to the Kyrgyz parliament for ratification. Earlier this month, the Kyrgyz government approved a bill allowing the transit. Bishkek signed the agreement with NATO in May last year during a NATO summit in Chicago. The main transit hub for NATO forces in Afghanistan is the Manas military base near Bishkek. Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev announced plans in November to shut down the base by 2014.
UN sends extra armored cars to Golan Heights
The UN has sent extra armored personnel carriers and ambulances to its mission in the Golan Heights, a spokesperson said Wednesday. The extra equipment for the force monitoring a ceasefire between Israel and Syria is being sent as the UN Security Council expresses concern over the growing dangers faced by peacekeepers. The UN is also trying to find replacements for about 100 Croatian troops who have been withdrawn. The UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) consists of about 1,000 peacekeepers that have only light arms.
Cyprus Stock Exchange to remain close on April 1
The Cyprus Stock Exchange extended its almost two-week shutdown after the island nation placed controls on currency transactions before banks were to reopen on Thursday. The exchange will remain shut during Easter, from March 29 to April 1, media reports said. The bourse explained that the Target2 system of interbank payments throughout the European Union would not be working. The last trading session of the Cypriot bourse was on March 15.
Mandela back in hospital
Former South African President Nelson Mandela has been admitted to hospital over a recurring lung infection, the government said on Thursday. Mandela was admitted shortly before midnight, Reuters reported. The government gave no further details.
Thai govt launches peace talks with Muslim rebels
Thai authorities and Muslim separatist leaders started peace talks on Thursday aimed at ending almost a decade of unrest in the country’s far south. National Security Council secretary-general Paradorn Pattanathabutr is meeting with the rebels’ governing National Revolution Front (BRN) in Malaysia. More than 5,000 people have been killed since a separatist insurgency erupted in three Muslim-dominated southern provinces in 2004. Three BRN leaders signed the peace pact last month; they may be joined by other rebel representatives.
US sends nuclear-capable stealth bombers to S. Korea
Washington has deployed two B-2 stealth bombers for US-South Korean military drills on the peninsula, potentially inflaming already-strained relations with Pyongyang. Washington said the mission “demonstrates the United States’ ability to conduct long range, precision strikes quickly and at will.” Pyongyang has already threatened “all-out war” in response to the military drills happening on its doorstep.
N. Korean border factory operational despite hotline cutoff
South Korean workers were approved to cross the border into the North to work in the Kaesong Industrial Complex, despite Pyongyang’s move to lock down its borders. North Korea announced that it had closed the last military hotline that permitted cross-border travel between the antagonistic countries on Wednesday. Around 50,000 Koreans work in the joint-run industrial complex.
Rescuers find body after Russian mine flood accident
One of four missing miners was found dead days after a coal mine became flooded in Russian Siberia. The body has not been identified yet. A criminal investigation has been launched into the cause of the flooding at the mine in Russia’s Kemerovo region on Tuesday. A reported 143 miners were evacuated, 10 of whom were lightly injured. Searches are continuing for the three missing workers.
Moody’s declares Russia bond rating stable as GDP grows
The Moody’s ratings agency has assured that, because of Russia’s low government debt, the country’s Baa1 bond rating has a stable forecast. Moody’s credited Russia’s nearly-balanced budget and an increase in exchange-rate flexibility, among other factors, with keeping the outlook bright. Russia’s Economic Development Ministry predicted the country’s GDP to grow by 3.6 per cent this year and by another 4.3 per cent in 2014. In 2012 Russia’s government debt was equivalent to about 13 per cent of the annual GDP, according to Moody’s. Russian GDP grew by 3.4 per cent last year, the smallest amount since the 2009 recession.