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World Scene

- - Thursday, December 8, 2011

JAPAN

Disaster budget used to fund whale hunt

TOKYO | Japan is spending $29 million from its supplementary budget for tsunami reconstruction to fund the country's annual whaling hunt in the Antarctic Ocean, a fisheries official confirmed Thursday.

Tatsuya Nakaoku, a Fisheries Agency official in charge of whaling, defended the move. He said the funding helps support Japan's whaling industry as a whole, including some whaling towns along the devastated northeastern coast.

Mr. Nakaoku said the budget request was made to increase security and maintain the "stable operation" of Japan's research whaling, which has faced increasingly aggressive interference from boats with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Conservationist group Greenpeace blasted the funding move, claiming it was siphoning money away from disaster victims.

YEMEN

Militants attack army; 9 rebels, 1 soldier die

SANAA | Militants linked to al Qaeda attacked an army post in an embattled southern province of Yemen but were driven back, leaving nine of their dead behind, officials said Thursday.

The security official said that one soldier also was killed in the Wednesday night firefight east of the town of Zinjibar in Abyan province.

Militants overran Zinjibar in May, shortly after a 10-month-old uprising against authoritarian President Ali Abdullah Saleh caused a breakdown of authority throughout the country.

The military patched up a temporary alliance with mutinous anti-Saleh units and fought their way back into the town in June, but have yet to establish full control and regularly clash with the Islamists.

MALAWI

Government to review homosexuality ban

BLANTYRE | Malawi's government announced Thursday that it will review a series of controversial laws, including a ban on homosexuality that has drawn widespread Western criticism.

The laws would be sent to the Law Commission, set up in 1995 by the government after the country's first democratic vote, Justice Minister Ephraim Chiume added in a statement.

The penal code of Malawi classifies homosexuality under "indecent practices and unnatural acts."

GERMANY

Arrested German accused of links to al Qaeda

BERLIN | A 27-year-old German man was arrested Thursday by a police special-ops team in the western city of Bochum on charges he was part of an al Qaeda bomb plot in Europe, the federal prosecutors' office said.

Suspect Halil S. is accused of being part of the so-called "Duesseldorf Cell." The group was said to be plotting the bombing before its three main members were swept up by police in April, prosecutors' spokesman Marcus Koehler said.

At the time of their arrest, authorities said the three were working on making a shrapnel-laden bomb to attack a crowded place inside Germany such as a bus, and were experimenting with explosives and detonators, but had not chosen a specific target.

Halil S., whose last name was not provided in accordance with German privacy laws, is accused of supporting the three with financial and logistical help, and then attempting to carry forward their plot after their arrest.

UNITED KINGDOM

Women to serve on British submarines

LONDON | Women will be allowed to serve on British navy submarines, with female officers taking up roles beginning in late 2013, Defense Minister Philip Hammond announced Thursday.

The first officers will serve on Vanguard class nuclear-powered submarines and will be followed by enlisted positions in 2015. Women also will be able to serve on the new Astute class nuclear-powered submarines after 2015.

ZIMBABWE

Mugabe seeks to scrap power-sharing deal

BULAWAYO | Zimbabwe's autocratic President Robert Mugabe called Thursday for elections next year for a new government to replace the power-sharing pact created after 2008 voting that led to deadly violence.

"We are saying time has come now to prepare to have elections. We just have to have elections next year," the 87-year-old who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, told a conference of his ruling ZANU-PF.

Mr. Mugabe had pushed for elections in 2011. However, in a sign of his more limited power under the unity accord, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, his main rival, who also leads the Movement for Democratic Change, rebuffed his demands, with regional backing.

The unity deal calls for a new constitution to be approved by referendum, a process running more than a year behind schedule with no firm indication of when it will be complete.