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UNITED KINGDOM

Britain gets tough on welfare recipients

LONDON | Britain announced Thursday the most radical overhaul in decades to its once-generous welfare system, pledging harsh penalties for those who refuse jobs and community work service for the unemployed in return for benefit checks.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith unveiled sharp changes to the country’s cradle-to-grave social safety net, which was first introduced after World War II to better protect newborns, families, the jobless and the sick.

“The message is clear: If you can work, then a life of benefits will no longer be an option,” said Prime Minister David Cameron, whose government last month announced it would slash benefits payments by 18 billion pounds ($29 billion) under a four-year package of spending cuts worth 81 pounds ($128 billion).

Under the new plan, many of the 5 million people who claim jobless benefits in Britain will be ordered to regularly do four weeks of unpaid community work to remain eligible for their 65 pounds ($105) weekly welfare payment. The stints could include manual labor tasks, such as removing graffiti or gardening in public parks.

NIGERIA

Nigerians link Iran to arms shipment

ABUJA | Nigerian intelligence officials and diplomats have concluded that the Iranian government was behind a secret shipment of weapons discovered last month in shipping containers, according to internal documents seen Thursday by the Associated Press.

Immediately after the arms seizure, Israeli officials accused Iran of trying to sneak the shipment into the Gaza Strip, but Nigeria’s security service now thinks the arms were imported by some local politicians to destabilize Nigeria if they lose in the coming general elections.

The cargo that was shipped from an Iranian port was listed as building materials, but when the 13 containers were opened at Nigeria’s main port in Lagos, inspectors found 107mm artillery rockets, rifle rounds and arms.

Contacted by phone, Iranian Ambassador Hussein Abdullahi declined to immediately discuss the allegations, telling the AP he was meeting with Nigerian officials about the same issues. Previously, Mr. Abdullahi said there is no clear evidence linking his government to the weapons.

HAITI

More cholera deaths in capital city

PORT-AU-PRINCE | Haiti’s cholera crisis deepened Thursday, as the toll soared again, and three more deaths in the teeming capital raised fears the epidemic could be set to explode in unsanitary camps full of earthquake survivors.

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