- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2012

RUSSIA

Space chief suspects satellite sabotage

MOSCOW — Some of the recent failures of Russian satellites may have been the result of sabotage by foreign forces, the nation’s space chief said.

Roscosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin stopped short of accusing any country of disabling Russian satellites.

But in an interview published Tuesday in the daily Izvestia, he said some Russian craft had developed “unexplained” malfunctions while flying beyond the reach of his nation’s tracking facilities.

Mr. Popovkin said he didn’t want to proportion blame, but modern technology makes spacecraft vulnerable to foreign influence.

“I wouldn’t like to accuse anyone, but today there exist powerful means allowing to influence spacecraft, and their use can’t be excluded,” he said.

Mr. Popovkin added that Russia will launch three communications satellites next year that will be able to retransmit signals from other spacecraft as they fly over another hemisphere.

BRAZIL

Rainfall causes deadly flooding, mudslides

JAMAPARA — A mudslide caused by two days of downpours has killed at least 13 people in a small town in southeastern Brazil, and another 11 are listed as missing, the head of the Rio de Janeiro state civil defense department said Tuesday.

Sergio Simoes told CBN radio that five bodies were pulled from beneath tons of mud and debris on Tuesday, bringing the death toll in the Jamapara district of Sapucaia city to 13. Eight bodies were found Monday.

Among the missing are five members of a family whose car was caught in the mudslide as they were trying to escape.

Floods elsewhere in the state have forced more than 30,000 people to flee their homes.

In neighboring Minas Gerais state, officials say, more than 14,000 people have left their homes and 15 have died in floodwaters or mudslides.

INDONESIA

Powerful quake off coast sets off tsunami warning

BANDA ACEH — A powerful earthquake hit waters off western Indonesia early Wednesday, prompting officials to issue a tsunami warning. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 7.3 and struck 260 miles off the coast of Aceh province. It was centered 18 miles beneath the ocean floor.

Arief Akhir, an official with Indonesia’s geological agency, said a tsunami warning had been issued. But more than an hour after the quake, there were no signs of seismically triggered waves.

Indonesia is prone to seismic upheaval because of its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanos and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.

A giant quake on Dec. 26, 2004, triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed 230,000 people, half of them in Aceh.

IRAN

U.S. ship rescues Iranians at sea - again

A U.S. Coast Guard cutter rescued six Iranian mariners from a vessel in distress in the Persian Gulf, the second time in less than a week that the U.S. military has come to the aid of Iranians at sea, an official said Tuesday.

The incident was another reminder of U.S. efforts to demonstrate the humanitarian value of its naval presence in the Gulf, a strategic waterway that the Iranian government has threatened to close in retaliation for international sanctions over its nuclear program.

On Thursday, the U.S. Navy rescued 13 Iranian fishermen who had been held captive by pirates in the northern Arabian Sea, just outside the Gulf, for more than 40 days.

That happened just days after Tehran warned the United States to keep its warships out of the Gulf. The fishermen were sent on their way, and the 15 pirates were taken aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis.

In the latest incident, Pentagon press secretary George Little said the Iranians aboard a cargo dhow about 50 miles southeast of the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr used flares and flashlights to hail the cutter Monomoy at 3 a.m. local time Tuesday. The vessel’s master indicated that his engine room was flooding and “deemed not seaworthy,” Mr. Little said.

RUSSIA

Moscow calls for caution on Iranian uranium facility

MOSCOW — Russia expressed regret and concern Tuesday about Iran’s launch of an underground uranium enrichment facility, but urged all parties involved in the nuclear standoff with Tehran to avoid hasty moves.

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement mixed cautious criticism of Iran, an important trading partner, with a call for more talks - a fine line Moscow has walked in the past.

The Foreign Ministry said the launch of the facility near Qom demonstrates that Tehran is continuing to ignore international concerns about its nuclear program. It added, however, that Iran had notified the International Atomic Energy Agency in due time of the launch of the bunker facility.

“We hope that Tehran will listen to our opinion about the need for further close cooperation with the agency and a quick start of serious six-way talks on the Iranian nuclear program without any preconditions,” it said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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