World Briefs: Congolese troops take back city of Goma
GOMA — Congolese soldiers took back control of this strategic city of 1 million on Monday, though the rebels who occupied it for two weeks continued to stake out positions less than two miles away, threatening to seize it anew if Congo fails to meet their demands.
The soldiers’ return came 13 days after the city fell to the rebels, who are widely believed to be backed by Rwanda.
In a worrying sign, however, the M23 rebels remained in tactical positions in the hills nearby, saying they were waiting for the government to respond to their grievances before deciding whether to try to retake the city.
The rebels claim to be fighting for the better implementation of a March 23, 2009, peace accord, which saw them integrated into the national army.
Analysts say the real reason for the rebellion is Rwanda’s desire to annex territory in the mineral-rich mountains at the border between the two countries.
Terrorist trial to expose global financial support
PARIS — A trial opened Monday for 10 suspects charged with supporting a jihadist network, in a case expected to expose details of a global terrorist finance system linked to al Qaeda.
The trial began four years after the suspects, mostly Turkish-speaking, were rounded up in a police sweep in France, Germany and the Netherlands.
The defendants are suspected of collecting funds for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which the U.N. listed as an al Qaeda affiliate just weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S.
Government projects balanced budget
BERLIN — Germany will achieve a balanced budget across all layers of government this year, thanks to a resilient economy, low unemployment, higher tax revenues and low borrowing costs, the Finance Ministry said Monday.
New borrowing is forecast to fall from just less than 1 percent of economic output in 2011 to zero percent this year when using the European Union’s official debt criteria, the ministry said.
Still, Germany’s federal, state and local governments are set to take on combined new debt of $34.4 billion this year, slightly up over last year’s $34 billion.
Under the EU accounting rules, that new borrowing is offset by surpluses in Germany’s social security system worth an estimated $21 billion and capital payments to European financial institutions worth $13 billion.
Army, police taking increased casualties
BRUSSELS — More than 300 Afghan soldiers and policemen are dying each month as Afghan national security forces assume increasing responsibility for the war, an Afghan military official told reporters at NATO headquarters Monday.
Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said deaths have risen in the past year as the army and police have taken over the lead role for security in areas covering 75 percent of the country’s population. He said on average 110 soldiers and 200 policemen die each month.
Pope joins tweeters with @Pontifex handle
Benedict XVI, the pope known for his hefty volumes of theology, is trying brevity — spreading the faith through his own Twitter account.
The pontiff will tweet in eight languages starting Dec. 12 using his personal handle @Pontifex, responding live to questions about faith during his weekly general audience, the Vatican said Monday.
Within six hours of the Vatican’s announcement, Benedict had garnered nearly 150,000 followers on the English version of @Pontifex alone, with thousands more following him in the eight other language accounts.
Navy chief worried over China’s military buildup
NEW DELHI — India’s navy chief raised an alarm Monday over China’s naval buildup in disputed maritime territories.
“It is actually a major, major cause of concern for us, which we continuously evaluate and work out our options and our strategies,” said Adm. D.K. Joshi to journalists in New Delhi.
“The modernization is truly impressive,” he added of the rival navy, which in September launched China’s first aircraft carrier.
New Delhi is wary of growing Chinese influence near the Indian Ocean, where Beijing has funded or plans to invest in major infrastructure projects, including ports in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and military-ruled Myanmar.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports