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World Briefs: Libyan weapons flooding Gaza, Israeli official says

- - Wednesday, October 17, 2012

JERUSALEM — A top Israeli defense official says Gaza is being flooded with sophisticated weapons from Libya and that the anti-aircraft missile fired last week at an Israeli helicopter likely originated there.

Yossi Kuperwasser, who directs the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, says "significant" numbers of weapons have been smuggled into the territory from Libya since the overthrow last year of dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The country is awash in weapons after the eight-month civil war and has weak central authority.

Palestinian militants in Gaza launched a shoulder-fired Strela missile at an Israeli helicopter last week but missed. It was the first such launch from Gaza.

Mr. Kuperwasser said Wednesday that Israel has long assumed that Gaza militants have kept such weapons, but probably only fired them after they amassed a large enough stockpile.

GREAT BRITAIN

Pakistani girl shot by Taliban faces long recovery

LONDON — A 14-year-old Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban for promoting female education has been doing better since she was airlifted to England for specialized treatment and has been moving her limbs, a Pakistani official said Wednesday.

Although it's difficult to gauge what such an improvement might mean, given that the exact nature of Malala Yousufzai's brain injuries have yet to be made public, one expert said the news is good.

"Any progress is hopeful," said Dr. Jonathan Fellus, chief scientific officer at the New Jersey-based International Brain Research Foundation. "This is the natural course of recovery that we would expect."

The Pakistani official said he had been briefed by doctors and that Malala's condition was "definitely much better" since she arrived Monday in England. He added that the girl was moving her limbs, although he didn't elaborate.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, where Malala is being treated, released a statement Wednesday saying Malala was in "stable condition and continued to impress doctors by responding well to her care," but didn't go into detail.

INDIA

Australia agrees to nuclear-energy deal

NEW DELHI — India and Australia agreed Wednesday to begin negotiations on civil nuclear-energy cooperation that would eventually allow the export of Australian uranium to the energy-starved South Asian nation.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard met with her Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, on the last day of a three-day visit. They discussed strategic and economic ties in addition to nuclear energy.

Mr. Singh said Australia's agreement to start negotiations that would lead to the sale of uranium was a "recognition of India's energy needs, as well as our record and credentials."

Australia has had a long-standing ban on exporting uranium to countries that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and India is among those countries.

Australia has 40 percent of the world's known uranium reserves, but sells uranium only for power generation under strict conditions.

India has been desperately seeking uranium sources to run its nuclear-power plants, and Australia's past refusal to sell the mineral has been a sore point in relations between the two countries.

BRAZIL

Crack addicts rounded up after slum takeovers

RIO DE JANEIRO — Days after police stormed one of Rio de Janeiro's most dangerous shantytowns to seize back territory long held by a powerful drug-dealing organization, city health and welfare workers are working to ease the despair and devastation left behind among hundreds of crack-cocaine addicts suddenly without drugs.

Since Sunday, when more than 2,000 heavily armed officers stormed into the Manguinhos and Jacarezinho complexes, crews working with police support by Wednesday had rounded up 231 crack users, and an additional 67 who had migrated elsewhere looking for the drug.

The area had been Rio's biggest open-air crack market, where hundreds of users bought the drug, consumed it and lingered in shacks and on blankets, picking through trash for recyclables to sell so they could buy more.

Drug dealers tired of the hassle posed by the addicts and by incursions of city health and welfare workers earlier this year banned crack in Mandela, one of the slums.

Police now have taken over the entire complex housing about 70,000 people as part of a state program to make Rio safer before the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.

TUNISIA

Journalists strike over government controls

TUNIS — Tunisia's journalists held a daylong strike on Wednesday to protest what they call government interference in the birthplace of last year's Arab Spring protests.

Several hundred journalists gathered outside union headquarters in the capital of Tunis, chanting for freedom of the press. Newspapers did not appear, and television and radio news programs restricted themselves to the headlines.

Before the overthrow of Tunisia's longtime strongman in January 2011, the press was tightly controlled by the government. It has since experienced unprecedented freedom.

The journalists' union, however, has opposed a series of appointments by the new moderate Islamist government to state TV and the venerable Dar Assabah publishing house.

Authorities denied trying to control the media and reiterated the government's respect for freedom of the press.

From wire dispatches and staff reports