- - Thursday, March 3, 2011

UNITED NATIONS

Food prices hit record high in February

ROME | Global food prices have reached their highest point in 20 years and could increase further because of rising oil prices stemming from the unrest in Libya and the Mideast, a U.N. agency warned Thursday.

Skyrocketing food prices have been among the triggers for protests in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere and raised fears of a repeat of the food-price crises in 2007 and 2008.

Some experts point to key differences compared with those years: for one, the price of rice, an important food-security commodity, is much lower today. Still, Oxfam called the increase “deeply worrying.”

The Food and Agriculture Organization said in a statement that its food-price index was up 2.2 percent last month, the highest record in both real, inflation-corrected terms and nominal terms since the agency started monitoring prices two decades ago.

It also was the eighth consecutive month that food prices had risen, the Rome-based agency said. In January, the index already had registered a record peak.

UNITED STATES

FBI agent missing in Iran still alive

WASHINGTON | Four years after a retired FBI agent mysteriously vanished inside Iran, U.S. officials have received proof he is alive, a remarkable development that has dramatically intensified secret negotiations to bring him home, the Associated Press has learned.

The U.S. had lacked reliable information about whether Robert Levinson was alive or dead since he disappeared in March 2007 from the Iranian island of Kish. It remains unclear who exactly is holding Mr. Levinson or where he is, but the proof that he is alive is a rare hopeful sign in a case that had seemingly gone cold.

EGYPT

Mubarak-appointed leader resigns from junta

CAIRO | The prime minister appointed by ousted President Hosni Mubarak has resigned, Egypt’s military rulers said Thursday, meeting a key demand of the opposition protest movement.

In a failed attempt to quiet the anti-government protests, Mr. Mubarak named former air force officer Ahmed Shafiq to be prime minister shortly after the unrest began on Jan. 25.

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