- - Thursday, May 5, 2011

ARCTIC

Study warns of mercury in Arctic

STOCKHOLM | Global mercury emissions could grow by 25 percent by 2020 if no action is taken to control them, posing a threat to polar bears, whales and seals and the Arctic communities who hunt those animals for food, an authoritative international study says.

The assessment by a scientific body set up by the eight Arctic rim countries also warns that climate change may worsen the problem by releasing mercury stored for thousands of years in permafrost or promoting chemical processes that transform the substance into a more toxic form.

“It is of particular concern that mercury levels are continuing to rise in some Arctic species in large areas of the Arctic,” despite emissions reductions in nearby regions like Europe, North America and Russia, said the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP).



Emissions have increased in other parts of the world, primarily in China, which is now the world’s No. 1 mercury polluter, accounting for nearly half of total emissions, AMAP said.

Its report, “Arctic Pollution 2011,” was scheduled for release Friday at a scientific conference in Copenhagen, but the Associated Press obtained a copy in advance from researchers involved with the study.

GERMANY

Al Qaeda suspect confesses as trial opens

FRANKFURT | A German-Syrian man admitted Thursday to belonging to a terrorist group and training in an al Qaeda paramilitary camp in Pakistan and was facing up to five years in prison under a plea deal, German officials said.

Frankfurt state court Judge Thomas Sagebiel said Rami Makanesi’s full cooperation with investigators made the plea deal possible as his trial began Thursday.

Makanesi still must detail his crimes in court, but he told judges he fully admits to the charges. No pleas are entered under the German system.

Defense lawyer Michael Koch said his client now hopes for a speedy trial. “He wants to take the responsibility for his deeds,” Mr. Koch said.

Makanesi was arrested by Pakistani security forces last June after training in Pakistan’s lawless Waziristan border region to join al Qaeda’s fight, prosecutors said. He was later extradited to Germany.

The 25-year-old had planned to return to Germany to raise funds for al Qaeda and be in place for future terrorist operations. Makanesi told investigators he was told in Waziristan that al Qaeda’s leadership, including Osama bin Laden, backed that plan, prosecutors said.

IRAQ

Suicide bomber kills 20 policemen

BAGHDAD | A suicide car bomber rammed his explosive-packed vehicle into a barrier outside a police building in central Iraq on Thursday morning, killing 20 police officers and wounding dozens more, a local council member said.

The blast is the second significant attack in Iraq since the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of a U.S. commando team in Pakistan was announced Sunday night. Iraqis have been on edge, waiting for al Qaeda’s branch in Iraq to strike back as a way to demonstrate it is still dangerous.

Iraqi officials have said they are increasing security in the wake of bin Laden’s killing. Already security is vastly improved since the days when bin Laden’s associates terrorized the country, but Thursday’s deadly attack underscored how difficult it is for Iraq to wipe out all traces of the insurgency.

Iraq also faces the withdrawal of the remaining American forces - about 46,000 troops - from the country by the end of this year, a prospect many Iraqis fear will leave their country more vulnerable to violence.

FRANCE

Sarkozy: Peace talks soon or Palestinian state

PARIS | French President Nicolas Sarkozy says he will support a unilateral declaration of Palestinian independence if peace talks with Israel don’t restart by September, dealing a tough setback to Israel’s campaign to isolate the incoming Palestinian unity government.

The comments published Thursday - similar to a message from Britain a day earlier - suggest Europe may be inching toward a watershed moment, joining those in favor of recognizing Palestine, even if there is no peace deal with Israel.

Mr. Sarkozy’s comments were published shortly before his meeting with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is touring Europe to rally opposition against the Palestinians.

Mr. Netanyahu says it is impossible to talk peace with a government that is set to include the Islamic militant group Hamas.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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