- - Sunday, December 16, 2012

TRIPOLI — Libya ordered the closure of its borders with four of its neighbors Sunday as it declared martial law in its vast desert south in the face of mounting unrest, state media reported.

The National Assembly ordered the “temporary closure of the land borders with Chad, Niger, Sudan and Algeria pending new regulations” on the circulation of people and goods, said a decree carried by the official LANA news agency.

“The provinces of Ghadames, Ghat, Obari, Al-Shati, Sebha, Murzuq and Kufra are considered as closed military zones to be ruled under emergency law,” the decree stipulated.

It gave the Defense Ministry powers to appoint a military governor with authority to arrest fugitives from justice, and to detain and deport illegal immigrants.

Assembly member Suad Ganur, who represents the southern city of Sebha, said the border closure was a “temporary measure” that would last only “until security has been restored.”

She said there had been an “increase in the flow of illegal immigrants in the expectation of eventual international military action in Mali” against al Qaeda-linked rebels, who have seized much of the north of the country.

She said the move also was in response to an “upsurge in violence and drug trafficking, and the presence of armed groups that act with complete impunity.”


Bombings kill 8 in cities in disputed northern area

BAGHDAD — Bombings rattled two cities in disputed areas in Iraq’s north on Sunday, killing at least eight people and raising concerns that extremists are trying to exploit ethnic tensions in the country.

The deadliest series of blasts struck Shiite Muslim targets in the disputed northern city of Kirkuk.

Police Maj. Imad Qadir, who is responsible for the Kirkuk city hospital’s security, said those attacks killed six people and wounded 36.

Kirkuk is 180 miles north of Baghdad and is home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen. Each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area.

The Kurds want to incorporate it into their self-ruled region in Iraq’s north, but Arabs and Turkomen are opposed.

The city is at the center of a broader dispute between Iraq’s central government and the Kurdish minority over contested areas where both seek influence.

Tension between Kurds and the central government has flared in recent months.


Anglican worshippers help take back cathedral

HARARE — Mainstream Anglican Christians in Zimbabwe took back their cathedral on Sunday after a lockout of more than five years staged by an excommunicated, breakaway bishop who claimed loyalty to the president’s party and used loyalist police to keep people out.

Worshippers from across the country and regional church leaders thronged the central Harare square for a service to “cleanse and rededicate” the historic colonial-era cathedral towering over the square.

Bishop Chad Gandiya struck the main doors three times with a pastoral staff to have them opened.

He blessed what he called the “defiled” interior with signs of the cross ahead of the first Eucharist service by mainstream Anglicans since they often were violently banished from churches and missions seized nationwide.

The nation’s highest court has declared the seizures illegal.

Breakaway Bishop Nolbert Kunonga launched a campaign a decade ago against the regional Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa to which Zimbabwe belongs, claiming it supported gay rights.


Opposition struggles for momentum, relevance

MOSCOW — Speaking to more than 100,000 protesters who thronged a Moscow street in December, anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny said Russia’s opposition had mustered “enough people to take the Kremlin.”

A year on, the movement that shocked Vladimir Putin’s regime and galvanized huge numbers of ordinary Russians is at an impasse. After a weekend rally to mark its first anniversary attracted only a few thousand protesters, opposition leaders met to figure out where they go from here.

“We are seeing a certain weariness. People had hoped for a quick result,” prominent opposition figure Ilya Yashin said during Sunday’s meeting. “But it’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon.”

Since Mr. Putin easily won a third presidential term in March, the opposition has struggled to maintain any momentum or direction. Attendance at rallies has consistently ebbed.

The Kremlin, meanwhile, has gone on the offensive by pushing through repressive legislation aimed at severely restricting opposition activity.

Opposition leaders and ordinary activists alike face criminal charges that could carry 10 years in prison.

The euphoria of last winter’s irreverent and mostly middle-class protest movement has been replaced with a lingering sense of powerlessness and despair.

Two thirds of Russians are “disenchanted” with Mr. Putin’s government, according to an October study by the Center for Strategic Research, a Kremlin-connected think tank, suggesting discontent goes far beyond supporters of the opposition.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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