- - Sunday, December 19, 2010


Heavy security after subsidy cuts

TEHRAN | Iran deployed squads of riot police around the major intersections of the capital Sunday, bracing for any kind of violent backlash in the tightly controlled Islamic Republic on the day deep cuts in food and energy subsidies went into effect.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced on Saturday night that the subsidy cuts, long expected, would go into effect at midnight. Though Iran has tremendous oil wealth, its economy appears to be straining under the weight of four rounds of U.N. sanctions over its disputed nuclear program.

Tehran says it is paying some $100 billion in subsidies annually, although experts believe the amount is far lower, closer to $30 billion. Iran had planned to slash subsidies before the latest round of sanctions took effect. Mr. Ahmadinejad and his allies have long insisted the country’s oil-based economy could no longer afford the largesse.

Economists say the unpopular plan to slash subsidies could stoke inflation already estimated to be more than 20 percent.

Before the subsidy cuts, Iran had some of the cheapest gasoline in the world.

Under the new rationing system, each personal car receives 16 gallons of subsidized fuel a month costing $1.50 a gallon - up from the just 38 cents a gallon. Further purchases of gas would run $2.69 a gallon, up from just $1.50.


State-owned pipeline explodes; 13 dead

MEXICO CITY | Authorities said a pipeline operated by Mexico’s state-owned oil company exploded in the central state of Puebla, killing at least 13 people.

State spokesman Noe Torres said the explosion happened at a Petroleos Mexicanos duct, where thieves were attempting to steal either gas or oil. He said it isn’t yet known whether the explosion was caused by the attempted theft. No one has been detained.

Mr. Torres said the initial explosion early Sunday in the city of San Martin Texmelucan was followed by four minor blasts. Hundreds of people fled the city, located 55 miles east of Mexico City.

Civil protection authorities, firefighters and military troops were investigating and trying to ensure there are no more explosions.


U.S. tourist’s body found near Jerusalem

JERUSALEM | Israeli police found the body of a female American tourist, with multiple stab wounds and her hands bound behind her back, in a forest outside Jerusalem on Sunday in what authorities believe was a politically motivated attack by two Arab men.

A friend of the slain woman survived, despite being knifed several times, and said the assailants at one point carefully removed her Star of David necklace and then stabbed her in the place it had rested on her chest.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld identified the slain woman as Christine Logan. He said she was American and 40 years old but did not have her hometown. The friend, Kaye Susan Wilson, a naturalized Israeli citizen originally from Britain, has been hospitalized with light wounds, officials said.

With a massive manhunt under way for the assailants, Mr. Rosenfeld said “the main lead line is that the attack was nationalistic, but we haven’t ruled out the possibility that it was criminal.”

Police said there were no signs that Ms. Wilson had been sexually assaulted or robbed.


Military seizes drug-plagued province

COBAN | The Guatemalan military has declared a state of siege in a province that they claim is controlled by Mexican drug traffickers.

A spokesman for the office of President Alvaro Colom said the government has declared the monthlong measure in the Alta Verapaz province to reclaim cities that have allegedly been taken over by the Zetas drug gang.

The order went into effect Sunday. It allows the army to detain suspects without warrants, conduct warrantless searches, prohibit gun possession and control the local news media.

In the city of Coban, national police and soldiers were searching homes and inspecting all cars as they entered and left the provincial capital.

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