- - Wednesday, November 9, 2011

TURKEY

5.7-magnitude quake collapses damaged buildings

ANKARA | A preliminary 5.7-magnitude earthquake caused a six-story hotel and other buildings to collapse in eastern Turkey on Wednesday, trapping people inside, according to media reports, two weeks after a strong temblor in the region killed about 600 people.

State-run TRT television said the quake brought down the hotel and some buildings that had been damaged in the earlier quake in the province of Van.

TV footage showed residents and rescuers trying to lift debris to evacuate people believed to be trapped under the hotel.

Sky Turk television said the hotel was being used by journalists and aid workers. It was not known how many people were trapped inside.

At least one person was brought out of the building alive, NTV television said.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake measured 5.7 magnitude. Turkey’s Kandilli seismology center said it struck at 9:23 p.m.

About 1,400 aftershocks have rocked the region since the 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit the province on Oct. 23.

Many residents had been living in tents, too afraid to return to their homes. At least 2,000 buildings were destroyed in the stronger temblor, and authorities declared another 3,700 buildings unfit for habitation.

UNITED KINGDOM

Britain to abstain on Palestinian vote

LONDON | Foreign Secretary William Hague said Wednesday that Britain will abstain when the U.N. Security Council votes on the Palestinian bid for statehood.

Mr. Hague told the House of Commons that the decision to withhold Britain’s vote was made after consultations with fellow Security Council member France and other European countries.

He said the U.N. vote will be held soon.

Mr. Hague said the Palestinian situation would be best resolved by negotiation and urged Israel to return to direct talks with Palestinian leaders.

AFGHANISTAN

Official: U.N. boosting cooperation with Afghans

KABUL | Reeling from a Taliban suicide bombing that left three of its workers dead, the U.N. refugee agency plans to intensify cooperation with local aid groups to get out the message that its mission in Afghanistan is purely humanitarian, the agency’s head said Wednesday.

The agency also is pressing the international community and the Afghan government to work harder on the reintegration of more than 5 million Afghans who have come home, Antonio Guterres, the U.N. high commissioner on refugees, told the Associated Press.

The move to more reliance on local nongovernmental groups comes after an Oct. 31 suicide bombing and simultaneous attack by Taliban insurgents in the restive southern province of Kandahar on a compound housing the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

The attack, which killed five people, including three U.N. guards, underscored the precarious security situation in Afghanistan 10 years after the start of the U.S.-led campaign that ousted the Taliban from power.

“It’s … very important to emphasize the capacity to reach out to the population the capacity to show that we are fully committed to humanitarian principles,” Mr. Guterres said.

He arrived Wednesday and immediately flew to Kandahar to pay his respects to the families of those killed in the attack.

POLAND

Leftists demand removal of crucifix from parliament

WARSAW | A new left-wing party in Poland is demanding the removal of a crucifix that hangs in parliament, a move seen by many citizens as a provocative challenge to a cherished symbol in the mainly Catholic country.

The party, Palikot’s Movement, filed its request Wednesday with the new parliamentary speaker, Ewa Kopacz. It argues the crucifix violates a constitutional guarantee of a secular state.

It is the party’s first such appeal since the newly elected parliament held its first meeting Tuesday.

The conservative Law and Justice party and a youth organization have written to the speaker in support of the crucifix. They recalled that it was put up as a symbol of regained freedom after communism was toppled in 1989.

UNITED KINGDOM

Student protest of fees draws thousands

LONDON | Amid a heavy police presence, thousands of students marched through central London on Wednesday to protest cuts to public spending and a big increase in university tuition fees.

Police said more than 2,000 people took part in the march, which set off from the University of London at midday with chants of “no ifs, no buts, no education cuts.” Organizers estimated the crowd at 10,000.

About 4,000 police officers were deployed along the route.

Previous student protests have ended in violence by a minority of demonstrators, including a spontaneous attack on a car carrying Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, in December.

Police said 24 people were arrested, most for breach of the peace and public order offenses, but the march was largely peaceful as demonstrators made their way through the city center.

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