- - Wednesday, October 12, 2011


NATO force extended amid terrorist concerns

UNITED NATIONS | The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Wednesday to authorize the 130,000-strong NATO-led force in Afghanistan for another year, expressing serious concern over ongoing terrorist and criminal activities in the country and the increase in civilian casualties.

The resolution adopted by the U.N.’s most powerful body calls for increased training of the Afghan army and police to accelerate progress toward their self-sufficiency and meet the target of gradually transferring security responsibility from the coalition force to the Afghan government by the end of 2014.

Declaring that the situation in Afghanistan “still constitutes a threat to international peace and security,” the council extended the International Security Assistance Force mandate until Oct. 13, 2012.


Berlusconi fights for political survival

ROME | Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is bracing for a confidence vote in Italy’s parliament this week that will determine his political future amid a rebellion by some allies and growing discontent with his leadership at a time of financial crisis.

Small anti-Berlusconi demonstrations erupted Wednesday in Rome, Naples and other cities in a sign the anger is spreading beyond Italy’s bickering politicians to ordinary citizens.

Mr. Berlusconi is set to address parliament on Thursday and will likely defend his government’s record and relaunch its legislative agenda.

The vote of confidence is expected to be held the following day, said Fabrizio Cicchitto, a parliamentary whip for the governing party.

If he loses, Mr. Berlusconi would be forced to resign.


Attempted murder of Chechen is probed

ANKARA | A Turkish court on Wednesday began questioning a man and three alleged accomplices suspected of attempting to kill a former Chechen separatist leader in Istanbul, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported.

Shamsuddin Batukayev, a 55-year-old Muslim scholar and a leader in the Chechen separatist movement in the 1990s, said this week that his bodyguards had foiled an attempt to assassinate him by overpowering an armed man who came to his home in Istanbul posing as a Chechen seeking his help.

Anatolia said police detained the suspect and three other people and seized a gun with a silencer during a search of the suspect’s hotel room.

On Wednesday, the four were being questioned by a court that will decide whether to charge them or set them free.

Anatolia identified the suspect as Barhram B. but did not reveal his nationality.

There was no information on the other three suspects.

Anatolia said the man told police during an initial questioning that he was given the task of killing Mr. Batukayev by someone he “did not know” while in Russia and another Russian - whose identity he also did not know - gave him the gun in Istanbul.


Officials find hot spot of radiation in Tokyo

TOKYO | Japanese officials have found a small area in Tokyo with higher levels of radiation than evacuation zones around the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Tokyo’s Setagaya city’s mayor says concerned parents monitoring for radiation asked them to conduct further tests on a roadside spot near a kindergarten.

Its radioactivity slightly exceeded that of an area about 25 miles from the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.

Mayor Nobuto Hosakai said the cause is being investigated.

He said rainwater containing radioactive particles had been dripping from the roof of a building by the sidewalk.

Officials said Wednesday that an estimated annual exposure at the spot wouldn’t pose a health danger. The area has been closed off and city officials will survey nearly 260 parks.


Royal-succession reform may be in the offing

LONDON | Britain’s government is pushing its plan to change the rules on royal succession to provide equal treatment for princes and princesses, the prime minister said Wednesday.

David Cameron said he has written to 15 other commonwealth nations where Queen Elizabeth II is head of state requesting their views on modernizing succession.

Under the proposal, the first child of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge would eventually become monarch - regardless of sex.

As the law stands now, an elder daughter would be passed over in favor of a younger brother.

The changes also would lift a centuries-old ban on British monarchs marrying Roman Catholics - a rule Mr. Cameron described in his letter as a “historical anomaly” since it does not bar those who take spouses of other faiths.

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