- - Wednesday, May 30, 2012

BERLIN — The operators of Germany’s electricity grid said Wednesday the country must invest about $25 billion in new transmission networks over the next decade as the nation abandons nuclear power and uses more renewable energy.

About 2,500 miles of new transmission lines must be built to ensure the country’s energy switchover, and another 2,730 miles of high-voltage lines need to be upgraded, the four operators - 50Hertz, Amprion, TenneT and TransnetBW - said in a report presented to the government.

Germany decided after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster last year to accelerate the shutdown of its atomic power plants, embarking on a transition to renewable energies.

An effective energy transmission infrastructure is a major issue because while much heavy industry is based in southern Germany, the coasts and plains of the country’s north are the main source of wind energy.

IRAN

Computer virus hit Iran’s oil industry

TEHRAN — Iran’s key oil industry was briefly affected by the powerful computer virus known as “Flame” that has unprecedented data-snatching capabilities and can eavesdrop on computer users, a senior Iranian military official said Wednesday.

The comment is the first direct link between the emergence of the new malware and an attack inside a highly sensitive computer system in Iran, which counts on oil revenue for 80 percent of its income.

The full extent of last month’s disruptions has not been given, but Iran was forced to cut Internet links to the country’s main oil export terminal presumably to try to contain the virus.

It would be the latest high-profile virus to penetrate Iran’s computer defenses in the past two years, boosting speculation that Israeli programmers could have struck again.

Experts see technological links between Flame and the highly focused Stuxnet virus, which was tailored to disrupt Iran’s nuclear centrifuges in 2010. Many suspect Stuxnet was the work of Israeli intelligence.

Gholam Reza Jalali, who heads an Iranian military unit in charge of fighting sabotage, claimed that Iranian experts had detected and defeated the “Flame” virus. He told state radio that the oil industry was the only governmental body seriously affected and that all data that had been lost were retrieved.

POLAND

Poles outraged over Obama’s ‘death camps’ gaffe

WARSAW — Poland’s prime minister said Wednesday he wasn’t completely satisfied with a White House explanation that President Obama misspoke when he referred to “Polish death camps” during a ceremony honoring a World War II hero, saying he wants a “stronger, more pointed” response.

The phrasing is considered hugely offensive in Poland, where Nazi Germany murdered Poles, Jews and others in death camps it built during World War II on Polish and German territory.

Poles have responded with outrage, maintaining Mr. Obama should have called it a “German death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland” to distinguish the perpetrators from the location.

Donald Tusk said he was accepting a White House explanation that Mr. Obama misspoke but was still waiting for a “stronger, more pointed reaction” that could eliminate the phrasing “once and for all.”

Mr. Tusk said it was a “matter of the U.S.’s reputation.” He hinted it should include facts about Nazi Germany’s brutal occupation of Poland.

Former President and Solidarity founder Lech Walesa said the phrase confused henchmen with their victims but that Mr. Obama’s mistake might prevent similar statements by others.

The White House said the president misspoke Tuesday in bestowing the Medal of Freedom posthumously on Jan Kozielewski, alias Karski, a Polish emissary who in 1943 alerted Allied leaders to mass killing of Jews. In order to gather firsthand evidence he risked his life and was secretly smuggled into the Warsaw Ghetto and a death camp.

ISRAEL

Defense minister mulling ‘unilateral action’

JERUSALEM — Israel’s defense minister abruptly proposed Wednesday that Israel consider “unilateral action” if long-stalled peace talks with the Palestinians don’t produce a deal - suggesting Israel may be thinking of withdrawing on its own from parts of the West Bank, as it did from the Gaza Strip seven years ago.

Ehud Barak’s proposal of undefined unilateral action came as a surprise, given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition to the Gaza pullout and the prevailing sentiment in Israel that the 2005 withdrawal was a failure because violently anti-Israel Hamas militants soon overran the territory.

Two decades of negotiations have been aimed at a treaty to create a Palestinian state next to Israel. Twice they came close to agreement but the talks broke down. Now, with talks stalled for more than three years, Mr. Barak warned time was running out to reach an accord.

“Israel cannot afford to tread water,” he said in a speech before a security conference, echoing sentiments Mr. Netanyahu voiced Tuesday. If a deal “proves to be impossible, we have to consider a provisional arrangement or even unilateral action.”

Mr. Barak did not elaborate on what he meant by either term, and a spokesman had no further comment.

From wire dispatches and staff reports