- - Monday, June 13, 2011


New Cabinet gives Hezbollah more power

BEIRUT — Five months after Hezbollah and its allies brought down the Lebanese government, the prime minister formed a new Cabinet on Monday that gives the Iranian-backed militant group far more power.

Najib Mikati announced a Cabinet that gives Hezbollah and its allies 16 of the 30 seats. In the previous government, they had 10 seats.

The Cabinet still must be formally presented to Parliament for a vote of confidence.

Hezbollah has seen a steady rise over the past few decades from a resistance group fighting Israel to Lebanon’s most powerful military and political force.

Opponents of Hezbollah — which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization — say having an Iranian proxy at the helm of Lebanon’s government will lead to international isolation.


Israeli defense minister meets top Chinese general

BEIJING — Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has pledged to work for closer ties with China’s military during a visit to Beijing, China’s Defense Ministry said Monday.

Mr. Barak’s statement came in a meeting Sunday with the chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army, Gen. Chen Bingde, the ministry said.

“The Israeli side values the development of military exchanges and cooperation with China and wishes to work together with our Chinese friends to raise military-to-military relations to a new level,” the ministry quoted Mr. Barak as saying.

Gen. Chen told Mr. Barak that relations between their militaries were an important part of overall ties and have strengthened markedly over recent years, the ministry said.


Berlusconi: Nuclear energy ‘probably’ out

MILAN — Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi conceded Monday that Italy will “probably” have to give up plans to revive nuclear energy in a tacit acknowledgment that referendums challenging government policies have succeeded.

If confirmed, the outcome would be a serious political defeat for Mr. Berlusconi, just two weeks after his candidates in local elections lost key votes in his political stronghold of Milan and in trash-choked Naples.

The nuclear disaster in Japan, following the March 11 quake and tsunami, was expected to have a powerful impact on voter sentiment. The Italian referendum on nuclear energy comes just weeks after Germany announced plans to abandon its nuclear program by 2022, in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster.

Italian voters appear to have ignored Mr. Berlusconi’s example, turning out strong in Sunday-Monday voting for a series of referendums that would block a revival of nuclear power, the privatization of the water supply and undo a law that offers the Italian leader a partial legal shield in criminal prosecutions.


Strong quakes rock already shaken city

WELLINGTON — Strong aftershocks rattled New Zealand’s quake-devastated city of Christchurch again Monday, toppling one of the few buildings still standing downtown and sinking thousands of homes into darkness.

Bricks crashed down in the cordoned-off city center, where only workers have tread since it was devastated in February’s major earthquake.

About 200 people were there when the quakes struck Monday, and two were briefly trapped in a church. More than 40 people have been taken to hospitals with minor injuries from falling debris, the city council said.

Thousands of aftershocks have followed the 6.3 magnitude quake that killed 181 people on Feb. 22.


Joint operation targets al Qaeda in North Africa

BAMAKO — Mali and Mauritania are to lead a joint military operation to thwart al Qaeda’s North African offshoot, an army official said on Monday.

The two countries will work together to stop al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb further establishing itself in Mali’s Wagadou Forest near the Mauritanian border.

Al Qaeda terrorists have been regularly spotted in the region, suggesting it has become a base for the group. Mali and Mauritania have previously expressed concerns about the activities of al Qaeda in North Africa.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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