- - Tuesday, October 26, 2010

IRAN

Fuel injected into first nuclear reactor

TEHRAN | Iran began loading fuel into the core of its first atomic power plant on Tuesday, moving closer to the start-up of a facility that leaders have touted as defying international efforts to curtail the country’s nuclear ambitions.

The Russian-built nuclear power plant in Bushehr has international approval and is supervised by the U.N.’s nuclear agency. However, the U.N. security council has slapped four rounds of sanctions against Iran over a separate track of its nuclear program — its efforts to refine uranium, which could eventually be used to create material for a weapon.

“Today, we witnessed an important development in the start-up process. After fuel is injected into the heart of the reactor, the reactor door is closed. Then, it will take one or two months to reach a 40 or 50 percent nominal power,” Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi told a press conference broadcast on state TV.

He pointed out that the fueling had occurred in spite of the current sanctions.

Worries remain over Iran’s program to enrich uranium for nuclear fuel since the process can also be used to create weapons-grade material, something Iran says it has no interest in doing.

TURKEY

Head scarf ban eased, debate continues

ISTANBUL | The relaxing of a ban on Turkish students wearing the Islamic head scarf to college has done little to silence a debate about the limits to the enforcement of secularism on campus.

The Higher Education Board (YOK), which oversees universities, instructed professors earlier this month not to kick out students because of their outfit, a move that effectively put an end to the long-standing head-scarf ban.

The YOK decree, issued upon a complaint by an Istanbul University student, amounted to a reversal of a decision by the same body 12 years ago that had led to the ban, forcing hundreds of girls to either quit their education or wear wigs or caps to conceal their head scarves.

Many universities have now opened their doors to veiled students, but others maintain the ban, contesting the legality of the decree, which came after the ruling Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) took control of YOK.

YEMEN

Interior Ministry imposes weapons ban

SAN’A | Yemen has ordered the confiscation of all firearms in the possession of its citizens after canceling weapons’ licenses not carrying the Interior Minister’s signature.

Some 50 million firearms are thought to be in the possession of Yemen’s estimated 23 million people.

The minister, Gen. Mouthar al-Masri, on Tuesday ordered checkpoints and security patrols across the impoverished Arab nation to confiscate any weapons they come across.

Possessing a firearm is a rite of passage for most Yemeni males and it will be virtually impossible to enforce the ban, the latest attempt by authorities to try to curtail the spread of illegal weapons.

The latest ban comes at a time when al Qaeda militants are stepping up attacks against Yemeni security forces.

ISRAEL

Netanyahu praises navy unit that hit flotilla

ATLIT BASE | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday visited the naval commandos who mounted a deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid boat, lauding their actions as brave and ethical.

“The action taken was vital, necessary, legal and of the utmost importance,” said Mr. Netanyahu on a rare visit to the Atlit naval commando base near the northern coastal city of Haifa.

“You acted against those who tried to kill you. Your response was professional, heroic, restrained and ethical,” he said on meeting the units involved in the May 31 raid, which left nine Turkish activists dead and scores more people injured.

Mr. Netanyahu thanked the troops for their role in stopping the six-ship fleet from reaching the shores of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, and said the coastal enclave had turned into “an Iranian terror base,” which posed a serious danger to Israel.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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