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World Briefs: Syria-bound arms ship headed back to Russia

- - Tuesday, June 19, 2012

LONDON — A Russian-operated ship said to be carrying military helicopters to Syria appears to have turned back after its British insurer removed coverage for the vessel, U.K. officials said Tuesday.

Britain's Foreign Office said the ship, the MV Alaed, changed course off the northwest coast of Scotland, the BBC reported, after news reports emerged about its contents. Earlier, the Foreign Office confirmed it was aware that a ship carrying a consignment of refurbished Russian-made attack helicopters was heading to Syria.

The ship has "turned back now, apparently toward Russia," Foreign Secretary William Hague told British lawmakers in Parliament. The vessel appeared to have been avoiding U.K. territorial waters and EU territorial waters, his ministry added.

The news came after the U.K.-based marine insurer Standard Club said it removed coverage for the ship's owner when it became aware it was carrying munitions, a clear breach of its rules.

Russian officials have not commented on the ship or its reported contents. The vessel's Russian operator, Femco, refused to comment Tuesday.

GREECE

Coalition government possible Wednesday

ATHENS — A coalition government could be formed by Wednesday, the head of Greece's socialist party said Tuesday, easing the nation out of a political limbo as it struggles to deal with a financial crisis that is already affecting Europe's economy and markets around the world.

Evangelos Venizelos, whose PASOK party finished third in Sunday's elections, said the socialists "will support this government sincerely and will participate in it in the most beneficial way in order to make it effective and credible."

At the core of any administration would be the conservative New Democracy party, which won 129 of Parliament's 300 seats - short of the 151 needed to govern alone. The radical left Syriza party, which finished second with 71 seats, has refused to join any government that will implement the terms of Greece's European Union bailout.

INDIA

Father unrepentant after beheading daughter

JAIPUR — A father in northwestern India remained unrepentant Tuesday after beheading his daughter with a ceremonial sword in a rage over her relationships with men, police said.

The father surrendered at a police station, carrying the head in one hand and the bloodied sword in the other, police said.

Residents of Dungarji village expressed shock as they performed the last rites for the 20-year-old woman.

Police said the father, marble miner Oghad Singh, accused his daughter of bringing dishonor to the family and making it hard to find husbands for her two unmarried sisters.

Villagers condemned the father's actions as extreme.

BRITAIN

WikiLeaks chief seeks refuge at Ecuador Embassy

LONDON — WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange, who faces extradition to Sweden on sex abuse charges, has taken refuge in the Ecuadoran Embassy in the British capital, the foreign minister of the South American nation said Tuesday.

In Ecuador, Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said his government is considering Mr. Assange request for political asylum.

The move comes less than a week after Britain's Supreme Court rejected Mr. Assange's bid to reopen his extradition case.

Mr. Assange is wanted for questioning in Sweden after two women accused him of sexual misconduct during a visit to the country in 2010.

His legal struggle to stay in Britain has dragged on for the better part of two years Mr. Assange, founder of the anti-secrecy website, has released tens of thousands of classified U.S.government documents.

IRAN

Iran, six world powers suspend nuclear talks

MOSCOW — Iran and six world powers Tuesday suspended talks meant to dispel suspicions that Tehran might use its nuclear activities to make weapons, the European Union's foreign policy chief said, after two days of intensive meetings failed to bridge differences.

Catherine Ashton said future meetings on a senior level were possible, but she told reporters that both sides need to first stage lower-level talks to see if there is any way to break the deadlock that has marked a series of negotiations since April.

The end of talks on the senior level is likely to be seen by critics as a sign of failure on the diplomatic track aimed at persuading Tehran to curb uranium enrichment, a process that can make both reactor fuel and the core of nuclear warheads.

From wire dispatches and staff reports