- - Thursday, January 13, 2011

IRAN

Foreign experts invited to nuclear sites

TEHRAN | Iran said Thursday that foreign experts can accompany the international envoys Tehran has invited to inspect its nuclear facilities ahead of planned talks with world powers.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Iran’s invitation to representatives of Russia, China, the EU, developing countries and Arab states to visit its nuclear facilities could be extended to the experts as well.

Mr. Mehmanparast said the invitation aimed at building trust ahead of talks Jan. 21 with world powers in Istanbul over Iran’s disputed nuclear program, which the U.S. and many of its allies fear might be aimed at developing atomic weapons. Iran denies the charge, and says the program is peaceful.

SOMALIA

Attacks planned against al Qaeda

UNITED NATIONS | Somalia’s new prime minister said 8,000 government troops will start waging attacks on Islamist insurgents and al Qaeda terrorists “very, very soon.”

Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a Somali-American educator, also said in an interview with the Associated Press on Wednesday night that increased U.S. and international support for his government is essential to end Somalia’s lawlessness and prevent terrorists from continuing to use the country as a safe haven.

He also warned that nearly 2.5 million Somalis in both Islamist and government-controlled areas are on the verge of starvation and said some have already died. He urged immediate global help to prevent even more deaths than in the 1992 famine when 500,000 people died.

Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991 when warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other, plunging the country into chaos and anarchy.

BRAZIL

355 die in flood, landslides

TERESOPOLIS | Walls of earth and water swept away homes in the mountains north of Rio de Janeiro, wiping out families and leaving survivors scrambling Thursday to reach still-trapped neighbors.

At least 355 people died in three Rio state towns after slides hit at about 3 a.m. Wednesday, and at least 50 people were still missing, officials said. Another 34 people already had died in floods and slides since Christmas in southeastern Brazil.

Nearly all the homes in their Caleme neighborhood were swept to the bottom of a hill, seemingly turned inside out. A river of water and mud flowed through the streets as a light rain continued to fall Thursday.

Such disasters hit Brazil annually in its rainy summer season and unduly punish the poor, who often live in rickety shacks perched perilously on steep hillsides with little or no foundations.

Rio state’s Civil Defense department reported on its website that 159 people were killed in Teresopolis, 160 in nearby Nova Friburgo and 36 in neighboring Petropolis.

Morgues in the cities were full and bodies covered in blankets were laid out in streets.

Officials said the area hit by slides had seen 10 inches of rain in less than 24 hours. More rain, possibly heavy at times, is forecast through the weekend.

ITALY

Court ruling weakens Berlusconi’s immunity

ROME | A top court has rejected as unconstitutional an automatic shield from trial for Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, but has maintained some room for immunity for the Italian leader.

The Constitutional Court’s Thursday ruling stops short of completely rejecting the law shielding Mr. Berlusconi, which would have immediately reopened two trials, on corruption and tax-fraud charges respectively.

But it also gives judges leeway in deciding whether the prime minister should be exempt from trial.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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