- - Sunday, December 4, 2011

IRAN

Iran says it shot down U.S. surveillance drone

TEHRAN — Iran’s armed forces have shot down an unmanned U.S. spy plane that violated Iranian airspace along the country’s eastern border, the official IRNA news agency reported Sunday.

An unidentified military official quoted in the report warned of a strong and crushing response to any violations of the country’s airspace by American drone aircraft.

“An advanced RQ170 unmanned American spy plane was shot down by Iran’s armed forces. It suffered minor damage and is now in possession of Iran’s armed forces,” IRNA quoted the official as saying.

No further details were published.

Iran is locked in a dispute with the U.S. and its allies over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program, which the West believes is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Iran denies the accusations, saying its nuclear program is entirely peaceful.

AFGHANISTAN

Security conference set to start Monday

BERLIN — A global conference in Germany to discuss Afghanistan’s future beyond 2014 comes as the country faces political instability, an enduring Taliban-led insurgency and possible financial collapse following the planned drawdown of international troops and foreign aid.

About 100 countries and international organizations will be represented at the Monday gathering, with some 60 foreign ministers in attendance, among them Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But one of the most important countries for Afghanistan’s future, its eastern nuclear-armed neighbor Pakistan, said it will boycott the conference to protest last month’s NATO air assault carried out from Afghan territory that killed 25 Pakistani soldiers.

Pakistan is seen as crucial player in the region because of its links and influence on insurgent groups that are battling Afghan government and foreign troops and that sometimes use Pakistan as a base for their operations.

The Bonn conference is expected to address the transfer of security responsibility from international forces to Afghan security forces over the next three years, long-term prospects for international aid and a possible political settlement with the Taliban.

SYRIA

Syria ignores deadline, faces new sanctions

DAMASCUS — Syria faced new sanctions after flouting Sunday an Arab League deadline to accept observers to monitor the unrest sweeping the country, which the U.N. says has killed at least 4,000 people.

The latest standoff between Syria and the Arab League comes as the death toll from violence across the country on Saturday and Sunday rose to at least 44 and after the U.N. Human Rights Council accused Damascus of “gross violations” of human rights.

A senior Qatari official said Damascus had asked for “new clarifications and further amendments to be made to the protocol, which was proposed” to cover the deployment of the observer mission. But the Arab ministers had “refused.”

The Qatari official said, however, that if Syrian officials “still want to sign, they can come tomorrow to Cairo.”

The Arab League ministerial committee late Saturday gave Damascus until Sunday to allow an observer mission into the country and thereby avoid further sanctions.

The meeting in Doha listed 19 Syrian officials it said would be banned from travel to Arab countries and whose assets would be frozen by those states.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Dread permeates Congo ahead of election results

KINSHASA — Business owners started moving their stock into secure locations on Sunday, and a trickle of people with suitcases waited to board boats to cross the mighty river separating this troubled nation from its neighbor to the north.

A sense of dread permeated the capital of this nation torn by war, as citizens awaited the proclamation of results Tuesday from Congo’s contested presidential election.

Early results issued so far showed President Joseph Kabila, 40, with a nearly insurmountable lead, setting up a confrontation with the country’s top opposition leader, who proclaimed himself president before the vote even began.

Over the weekend, the 10 opposition candidates vying to unseat Mr. Kabila said they rejected the partial results.

The United Nations and the African Union appealed for calm. And the country’s influential clergy in this nation where at least half the population is Roman Catholic made a rare public plea.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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