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World Briefs

- - Monday, September 12, 2011

SYRIA

U.N.: Syrian death toll at least 2,600

GENEVA — At least 2,600 people have died in the unrest that has swept Syria, the U.N.'s top human rights official said Monday, as a panel was named to investigate abuses in the Arab country.

The figure released by U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay adds to evidence that Syrian leader Bashar Assad is continuing his six-month crackdown on government foes despite international pressure.

Last month, the Geneva-based body at an emergency meeting voted overwhelmingly to demand Mr. Assad's government end its bloody crackdown.

"From the time that the Human Rights Council passed its resolution and the Security Council has addressed the matter, the situation in Syria has worsened and peaceful protesters have been killed," Ms. Pillay said.

The council Monday named three independent experts to lead an international investigation of allegations of human rights abuses in Syria.

IRAN

Iranian nuclear plant steps up operations

TEHRAN — Iran's first nuclear power plant stepped up operations Monday after more than a decade of delays, pumping out electricity at up to 40 percent capacity and marking a major step forward in the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.

The Bushehr nuclear plant - which officials say could begin full-power operations in December - is also a cornerstone of Iran's drive to become a technological leader among Muslim nations with efforts such as a space program and long-range missile development.

The U.S. and its allies accuse Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies the claim and says it only seeks reactors for energy and scientific research.

Senior Iranian and Russian officials attended celebrations for the official launch of the 1,000-megawatt Bushehr plant on the Persian Gulf. It began to generate between 350 to 400 megawatts of electricity, equal to 35 to 40 percent of the reactor's full capacity.

EUROPE

Tropical storm Katia slams into Ireland, Britain

DUBLIN — Tropical Storm Katia shut down roads, bridges and sporting events Monday in Ireland and Britain, where residents braced for the strongest wind gusts in 15 years.

Forecasters in both countries said Monday's gusts would top 80 mph as the storm - previously a hurricane as it roared across the Atlantic - made driving, shipfaring and even walking dangerous in broad swathes of Ireland, Scotland and northern England.

Most ferry services between Ireland and Britain were canceled, and fishing boats along the Atlantic coasts of Ireland and Scotland were warned to head into port.

TURKEY

5 dead in southeast after Kurdish attacks

ANKARA | Kurdish rebels attacked a police station and a paramilitary police headquarters near Turkey's border with Iraq, killing five people, including three civilians, the region's governor said Monday.

The Kurdish rebels, who are fighting for autonomy from Turkey, have stepped up attacks on Turkey's military and police, killing dozens of security forces since July, but these were the first civilians deaths in the conflict in recent months.

Turkey responded to the escalated attacks with air raids on suspected rebel positions in northern Iraq last month.

Gov. Muammer Turker said three civilians, a police officer and a soldier died late Sunday after the guerrillas opened fire on the two buildings in the town of Semdinli. The town is located in the mainly Kurdish province of Hakkari, which borders on Iraq.

Ten other people, most of them soldiers, were injured in the raids by members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, he said.

SOUTH AFRICA

Youth leader loses hate speech lawsuit

JOHANNESBURG — The black man who leads the youth wing of South Africa's governing party has no right to sing a song some whites find offensive, a judge said Monday.

Judge Collin Lamont went further than AfriForum, the white-rights group that brought the hate speech suit, had demanded by saying that all South Africans, not only Julius Malema, should refrain from singing "Shoot the Boer."

Under the ruling, criminal cases can now be brought against those who sing the song or quote its lyrics.

In a ruling broadcast live on national television, the judge said that while such anthems had their place during apartheid, they constitute hate speech in a society now struggling to redefine relations between the races.