- - Monday, December 26, 2011

JAPAN

Probe finds fault in nuclear disaster response

TOKYO — Japan’s response to the nuclear crisis that followed the March 11 tsunami was confused and riddled with problems, including an erroneous assumption an emergency cooling system was working and a delay in disclosing dangerous radiation leaks, a report revealed Monday.

The disturbing picture of harried and bumbling workers and government officials scrambling to respond to the problems at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant was depicted in the report detailing a government investigation.

The 507-page interim report, compiled by interviewing more than 400 people, including utility workers and government officials, found authorities had grossly underestimated tsunami risks, assuming the highest wave would be 20 feet. The tsunami hit at more than double those levels.

The report criticized the use of the term “soteigai,” meaning “outside our imagination,” which it said implied authorities were shirking responsibility for what had happened.

It said by labeling the events as beyond what could have been expected, officials had invited public distrust.

ISRAEL

Israel debates Armenian killings

JERUSALEM — Over their prime minister’s objections, Israeli lawmakers on Monday began debating a proposal to recognize the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide.

Doing so would likely further strain already acrimonious relations with Turkey, which denies the genocide label and says the massacres occurred in civil unrest as the Ottoman Empire disintegrated during World War I, with losses on both sides.

The issue is highly sensitive in Turkey, and lawmakers in France set off a diplomatic crisis with Ankara last week when they passed a bill making it a crime to deny that the killings amounted to genocide.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan swiftly halted political and economic contacts with Paris, suspended military cooperation and ordered his country’s ambassador home for consultations.

AFGHANISTAN

Officials: No foreign meddling in any Taliban talks

KABUL — An Afghan government body seeking a negotiated peace deal with the Taliban insisted Monday it would not tolerate foreign interference in any talks.

The head of the foreign relations department of the High Peace Council, Mohammad Ismail Qasimyar, emphasized the government’s position in reaction to Afghan media reports that the U.S. and other foreign governments with a stake in the war may try to strike a separate deal with the Taliban.

“Afghans must be in the lead in the talks,” Mr. Qasimyar said. “No foreign involvement in the Afghan peace talks is acceptable.”

The peace council is a group of about 70 influential Afghans and former Taliban appointed by President Hamid Karzai to try to reconcile with the insurgents.

The onetime head of the council, former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, was assassinated Sept. 20 by a suicide bomber posing as a peace emissary from the Taliban.

SYRIA

Arab monitors en route, government kills 20

BEIRUT — The Arab League forged ahead with plans to send teams of monitors into Syria on Monday, even though President Bashar Assad’s regime has intensified its crackdown in the week since agreeing to halt bloodshed, killing several hundred civilians according to activists.

At least 20 more deaths were reported Monday from intense shelling by government forces in the center of the country, just hours before the monitoring teams were to arrive.

Activists said at least 275 civilians have been killed by government forces in the past week and another 150 people died in clashes between army defectors and regime troops — most of them defectors.

CHINA

Activist given 10 years in prison for subversion

BEIJING — A Chinese court sentenced a veteran dissident who organized a pro-democracy activist network to 10 years in prison Monday for inciting subversion, his wife said, the second heavy punishment for a dissident in recent days.

The stiff sentences come near the end of a year in which the Chinese government has used various means to silence dissent, from lengthy imprisonment to months of disappearances, in a crackdown aimed at preventing Arab Spring-style uprisings.

A court in the southern city of Guiyang found Chen Xi guilty of the charge of “incitement to subvert state power” for 36 essays he wrote and posted online, his wife said by phone.

The U.N. Human Rights office said it was alarmed by the sentence handed down to Chen and other similarly harsh sentences given to other Chinese dissidents in recent days.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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