- - Thursday, June 30, 2011

SPAIN

Al Qaeda suspected of buying Libyan weapons

MADRID | Sophisticated Libyan army weapons are being trafficked and possibly sold to al Qaeda’s affiliate in North Africa, giving the group the potential to increase instability in a key part of the continent, Spain’s interior minister said Thursday.

Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is a growing menace that could conceivably spread outside its home base in North Africa unless Western countries step up efforts to counter it.

The West considers North Africa, which is just across the Mediterranean from Europe, as vital in the fight against terrorism.

Algeria, where an Islamist insurgency erupted in 1992 with sporadic attacks continuing, has become a key U.S. ally in the anti-terrorism battle.

SUDAN

U.N. says Sudan’s army continues attacking civilians

JUBA | The U.N. said in a report Thursday that Sudan is denying it full access to tens of thousands of civilians near an area between north and south Sudan where violence continues less than 10 days before Southern Sudan becomes the world’s newest nation.

The Nuba people - black Africans who have opposed the rule of Sudan’s Arab north - have streamed into the Nuba Mountains in search of safety from attacks by Sudan’s military in Southern Kordofan, a part of Sudan’s north. At least 73,000 have fled.

An internal U.N. report has said that dozens have been killed by aerial bombardments and gunfire attacks amid reports of door-to-door searches for black Nuba tribesman by the northern military. Because the U.N. and other aid groups cannot access the area, there are no firm numbers.

BRITAIN

Thousands go on strike in pension protests

LONDON | British teachers and public sector workers swapped classrooms and offices for picket lines Thursday as hundreds of thousands walked off the job to protest pension cuts.

Airport operators warned there could be long lines at immigration entry points because of walkouts by passport officers, but most of Britain’s airports, including Heathrow and Manchester, said it was business as usual.

Unions estimated that up to 750,000 teachers and civil servants joined the one-day strike, disrupting courthouses, tax offices and employment centers, as well as schools. The government said the figure was lower.

Thursday’s walkouts are the first salvo in what unions hope will be a summer of discontent against the Conservative-led government’s austerity plans.

AFGHANISTAN

Former executives arrested in bank scandal

KABUL | Authorities have arrested two former executives of Kabul Bank on charges of bilking the scandal-ridden institution of hundreds of millions of dollars, an Afghan prosecutor said Thursday.

It is the first time anyone has been arrested for activities at the nation’s largest bank, which nearly collapsed last year because of mismanagement and questionable lending.

Sherkhan Farnood, former bank chairman, and Khalilullah Ferozi, the former chief executive officer, were arrested Wednesday and were being held in a detention center in Kabul.

Deputy Attorney General Rahmatullah Nazari would not disclose details about the charges they face, saying only that they are accused of together taking as much as $1 billion from the bank illegally.

MOROCCO

Moroccans set to vote on new constitution

RABAT | Moroccans will vote Friday on a new constitution that the king has presented as wide-ranging reform, even as activists maintain it simply perpetuates an autocracy.

Like all referendums in the North African country, the measure is likely to pass, buoyed by King Mohammed VI’s continuing religious and political legitimacy and a huge media campaign.

Morocco, like the rest of the Middle East, was swept by pro-democracy demonstrations at the beginning of the year, protesting a lack of freedoms, weak economy and political corruption.

The monarch, however, seems to have managed the popular disaffection by presenting a new constitution that guarantees the rights of women and minorities, and increases the powers of the parliament and judiciary, ostensibly at the expense of his own.

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