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World Briefs

- - Wednesday, November 17, 2010

IRAN

Military claims airspace breaches

TEHRAN | Iran said Wednesday that unidentified foreign planes violated its airspace six times as the country kicked off its biggest-ever air-defense drill but that the intruders were intercepted and forced back by Iranian jets.

The remarks by Gen. Hamid Arjangi, a spokesman for the exercise, were the first Iranian claim of an intrusion. Initially, he had only said that foreign reconnaissance planes had approached Iran's airspace.

Gen. Arjangi said Iran's radar stations and observation posts picked up on the planes entering Iranian airspace during the five-day drill meant to showcase the country's ability to defend its nuclear facilities from possible attack.

"In all six cases, Air Force jet fighters took off and carried out interception operations ... artillery systems were alerted, targets were identified and necessary warnings were given," Gen. Arjangi was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

GERMANY

Government tightens anti-terror security

BERLIN | Germany's interior minister announced Wednesday that he is ordering increased security in the country in light of a heightened threat from terrorism.

Thomas de Maiziere, Germany's top security official, said a series of recent events suggest authorities are dealing "with a new situation." He cited, among other things, a tip from another unspecified country about a suspected attack planned for the end of November - though he didn't say where it was supposed to take place.

That tip arrived after the interception of two mail bombs mailed from Yemen to the United States - one of which transited through a German airport before it was found in Britain.

The Yemen plot points to "the adaptability and the persistence of terrorists in pursuing their aims" and also underlines "the reliability of some leads," Mr. de Maiziere said in a statement to reporters, without elaborating. He said Germany has information of its own pointed to "sustained efforts" by Islamic extremist groups to plan attacks in Germany.

IRAQ

Leader won't sign Aziz death order

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said on Wednesday he will not sign an order to execute the man who was the public face of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship in the West.

"No, I will not sign the execution order for [former Foreign Minister] Tariq Aziz because I am a socialist," Mr. Talabani told French television France 24 in an interview. "I sympathize with Tariq Aziz because he is an Iraqi Christian. Moreover, he is an old man who is over 70."

Iraq's high tribunal passed a death sentence on Aziz in October over the persecution of Islamic parties in Iraq during Saddam's rule.

The Vatican and Russia both called on Iraq not to carry out the death sentence on humanitarian grounds. The Vatican said mercy would help the war-torn country make progress toward reconciliation.

The impact of Mr. Talabani's opposition was not immediately clear. Iraq executed Saddam in 2006 despite Mr. Talabani's apparent refusal then to sign.

CHINA

Rising food prices prompt subsidies

BEIJING | China's government announced food subsidies for poor families Wednesday as it tries to cool a double-digit surge in prices that communist leaders worry might stir unrest.

The Cabinet promised to ease shortages of vegetables and grain that helped push up food prices by more than 10 percent in October. It promised more supplies of diesel to end fuel shortages that have disrupted trucking and industry.

The Cabinet said it was not ordering direct price controls but said they could be imposed if necessary. The statement gave no details of the subsidies or how the government would try to increase food supplies. Inflation is politically volatile in China, where poor families spend up to half their incomes on food.

The jump in food prices pushed inflation to a 25-month high of 4.4 percent in October, well above the government's 3 percent target.

Surging food prices are not confined to China. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization on Wednesday said global prices of most commodities are up sharply from last year and further spikes are likely unless production of major food crops rises.