- - Thursday, December 22, 2011


Strikes over austerity hit holiday travelers

BRUSSELS | Strikes to protest austerity measures paralyzed ground traffic in Belgium and hit Christmas travelers in several nations across Europe on Thursday, promising days of headaches through the holidays.

Workers were walking off the job to show their ire at government budget-slashing measures to tackle debt and high deficits, and officials were scrambling to try to mitigate delays and cancellations.

Eurostar and Thalys idled part of their popular service through Brussels as Belgian transport workers walked off the job.

In France, a strike by airport security personnel stretched into its seventh day.


Tehran to hold naval drill in international waters

TEHRAN | Iran’s navy chief said Thursday that his forces plan to hold a 10-day drill in international waters beyond the strategic Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, an exercise that could bring Iranian ships into proximity with U.S. Navy vessels.

The drill will be Iran’s latest show of strength in the face of mounting international criticism over its nuclear program, which the West fears is aimed at producing atomic weapons. Tehran denies the charges and insists that the program is for peaceful purposes only.

The Strait of Hormuz is of strategic significance as the passageway for about a third of the world’s oil tanker traffic. Beyond it lie vast bodies of water, including the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

The U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet is also active in the area, as are warships of several other countries that patrol for pirates there.


Militant Hamas moves to join PLO umbrella

CAIRO | Rival Palestinian factions reached a key agreement in Cairo on Thursday to admit the Hamas militant group into the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), both sides said.

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