- - Thursday, January 19, 2012

ISRAEL

U.S. military chief arrives to discuss Iran nukes

JERUSALEM — The top U.S. general, visiting Israel at a delicate and dangerous moment in the global standoff with Tehran, is expected to press for restraint amid fears that the Jewish state is nearing a decision to attack Iran’s nuclear program.

Thursday’s arrival of Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, just four months after he took office as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, underscores Washington’s concern about a possible Israeli military strike.

It also spotlights key questions at the center of the global maneuvering to prevent an Iranian bomb: Such as, how effective are the current economic sanctions in pressuring Iran’s leadership; and could airstrikes damage nuclear facilities enough to be worth a counterstrike from Iran?

In the background, rarely openly discussed, is the somewhat prickly relationship between the Obama administration and the rightist government in Israel. The antipathy, born largely of disagreements on the Palestinian front, may not be helping navigate a situation as delicate as Iran.

SYRIA

Sanctions cost $2 billion, says oil minister

DAMASCUS — Syria has lost more than $2 billion in revenue since Sept. 1 because of European and U.S. bans on importing Syrian oil, Oil Minister Sufian Allaw said Thursday.

“We have suffered important losses as a result of our inability to export crude oil and petroleum products,” he said at a news conference in Damascus.

“The oil embargo has caused a drop in production of 150,000 barrels, or $15 million, a day,” he said.

CANADA

High court refuses to hear torture cases

OTTAWA — Canada’s highest court on Thursday refused to hear a case of three Canadians who accused the government of complicity in their detention and torture in Syria and Egypt.

Abdullah Almalki, a Syria-born electronics engineer, Ahmad El Maati, a Kuwait-born former truck driver, and Muayyed Nureddin, an Iraqi-born geologist, sued Ottawa but were denied access to key government documents on the basis that their disclosure could harm Canada’s foreign relations or national security.

A lower court decision last year upheld Ottawa’s right to safeguard state secrets.

An independent inquiry in 2008 concluded that Canadian officials did not have direct responsibility for detention or alleged abuse of the three men.

SUDAN

Fresh fighting in Sudan after famine warning

KHARTOUM — There has been fresh fighting in Sudan’s Blue Nile state, rebel and government forces said Thursday, after the United States warned of a possible “horrific” famine affecting civilians in the area.

The rebels said they shot down a helicopter gunship sent in to rescue a convoy caught in a forest ambush that killed 26 members of the Sudan armed forces.

It happened on Wednesday near Boot, a village about 28 miles west of the state capital, Ed Damazin, said Arnu Ngutulu Lodi of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North.

He said the rebels reported no casualties. But Sudan’s army spokesman, Sawarmi Khaled Saad, said his forces killed seven insurgents while six from the government side were wounded in the action near the South Sudan border between Monday and Wednesday.

BRAZIL

Politician gets 103 years for killing running mate

BRASILIA — A federal court in northeastern Brazil has sentenced a politician to 103 years in prison for killing his running mate so he could take her place in Congress.

The court in the state of Alagoas said Thursday that a jury found Talvane de Albuquerque guilty of ordering four of his aides to kill congresswoman Ceci Cunha so he could replace her in the lower house Chamber of Deputies.

Albuquerque was Mrs. Cunha’s alternative and would have assumed her seat.

Albuquerque was also found guilty of ordering the murder of Mrs. Cunha’s husband and two of her relatives.

His aides were sentenced to jail terms ranging from 75 to 105 years. Under Brazilian law, no one can serve more than 30 years in prison.

Defense attorney Welton Roberto said he will appeal.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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