- - Sunday, October 24, 2010


U.N. to assist Afghan peace talks

HERAT | The U.N.’s top diplomat in Afghanistan said Sunday he will help with efforts to find a negotiated end to a war he thinks has no military solution, but he will not discuss progress.

Staffan de Mistura, special representative for the U.N. secretary-general, also said he thinks a resolution to the war is in sight, but the final stage of any negotiations is the most perilous, and warned that talks had to be an Afghan-only effort.


Court orders solons back to work

BAGHDAD | Iraq’s highest court on Sunday ordered parliament back to work after a virtual seven-month recess, intensifying pressure to break the political stalemate that has held up formation of a new government.

The 325 lawmakers met only once since they were elected on March 7 for a session that lasted 20 minutes and consisted of a reading from the Koran, the playing of the national anthem and swearing in new members.

Under the constitution, parliament was required to meet within 15 days of final court approval of election results, which came on June 1. Lawmakers met on June 14 and should have chosen a parliament speaker during their first session and then the president within 30 days.

But the appointments had to be put off because they are part of the negotiations between major political blocs over the rest of the new leadership — including a prime minister and top Cabinet officials.


Israel tells Palestinians talks only option

JERUSALEM | Israel’s prime minister on Sunday urged the Palestinians to avoid unilateral action and resume peace talks, a reflection of growing concern that the Palestinian leadership may be inching toward a “Plan B,” in which they seek international recognition of an independent state without Israeli agreement.

Talks have stalled, just weeks after their launch, following Israel’s decision to resume full-fledged settlement building in the West Bank after a 10-month period of restrictions. The Palestinians have said they cannot negotiate with Israel unless the curbs are renewed, and one senior Palestinian official on Sunday insisted on a total halt to construction.


Capital braces for floods as waters rise

BANGKOK | Bangkok braced for rising waters encroaching on the city on Sunday as the death toll from two weeks of nationwide flooding rose to 38, emergency officials said.

The floods, which began on Oct. 10, have affected millions of people across huge swaths of the country, inundating thousands of homes and leaving authorities struggling to reach stranded people in remote areas.


Pirates seize 2nd ship off Kenya

BERLIN | Somali pirates seized a German freight ship off the coast of Kenya on Sunday, the second commercial vessel to be captured in the region in as many days, officials said.

The pirates took control of the German freight ship Beluga Fortune about 1,200 miles east of Mombasa, Kenya, a spokesman for the German army said on the condition of anonymity, in keeping with military regulations.

The German shipping company Beluga-Reederei, which owns the vessel, said Sunday night that Somali pirates were behind the attack and that the ship was on its way from the United Arab Emirates to South Africa.


Grounded nuclear sub heading home

LONDON | Britain’s newest nuclear submarine headed back to base on Sunday after running aground off a Scottish island.

In an embarrassing blunder, HMS Astute became stuck on a shingle bank off the Isle of Skye during sea trials on Friday, just days after the government announced deep cuts to the Royal Navy.

The vessel — billed as the kingdom’s most powerful hunter-killer submarine — was freed at high tide before being towed out to deeper waters for damage checks. It was returning to its base at Faslane on the Scottish west coast and was due to arrive Monday.


Haiti fault capable of another big quake

PARIS | The Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti failed to release all the tension in a notorious seismic fault, leaving the Haitian capital exposed to the risk of another seismic disaster, U.S. scientists reported Sunday.

The magnitude 7.0 event, which killed an estimated quarter of a million Haitians, occurred to the west of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

The culprit was initially thought to be a well-known but poorly understood fault called the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden Zone (EPGZ), where 7.0 quakes occurred in 1751 and 1770.

A team of U.S. geologists says assumptions that the EPGZ was to blame may be wrong. They found plenty of evidence of ground rupture, uplifted land and diverted streams that must have occurred in the 18th-century shakes, but nothing similar that could be pinned to the 2010 event.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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