- - Sunday, December 9, 2012

A North Korean agency has announced it is considering delaying a long-range rocket launch this month that would commemorate the first anniversary of the death of longtime leader Kim Jong-il and violate international law.

A spokesman for the Korean Committee of Space Technology gave no reason for potentially delaying the rocket launch, the communist state’s second attempt in eight months. A launch in April ended with the rocket breaking apart over the Pacific.

“Our scientists and technicians, however, are now seriously examining the issue of readjusting the launching time of the satellite for some reasons,” the spokesman told the state-run Korean Central News Agency on Saturday.

North Korea announced earlier this month it had scheduled the launch between Dec. 10 and Dec. 22. Kim died Dec. 17.

The announcement came after U.S. and other international officials — including those from China, North Korea’s only regional ally — asked North Korean officials not to proceed with the launch.

Western nations have said what North Korea claims are satellite launches are actually ballistic-missile tests, since the same technology applies. The U.N. has banned North Korea from conducting such tests.


U.S. drone strike kills senior al Qaeda leader

PESHAWAR — A U.S. drone strike has killed a senior al Qaeda leader in Pakistan’s tribal region near the Afghan border, Pakistani intelligence officials said, in the latest blow to the Islamic militant network.

Sheik Khalid bin Abdel Rehman al-Hussainan, who was also known as Abu Zaid al-Kuwaiti, was killed when missiles slammed into a house Thursday near Mir Ali, one of the main towns in the North Waziristan tribal area, the officials said.

Al-Kuwaiti appeared in many videos released by al Qaeda’s media wing, Al-Sahab, and was presented as a religious scholar for the group.

Earlier this year, he replaced Abu Yahya al-Libi, al Qaeda’s second-in-command, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan in June, the intelligence officials said.

Al-Libi was a key Islamic religious figure within al Qaeda and also a prominent militant commander.

Al-Kuwaiti appeared to be a less prominent figure and was not part of the State Department’s list of most-wanted terrorist suspects, as al-Libi had been.


Hundreds of fishermen missing after typhoon

NEW BATAAN — The number of people missing after a typhoon devastated parts of the southern Philippines jumped to nearly 900 after families and fishing companies reported losing contact with more than 300 fishermen at sea, officials said Sunday.

The fishermen from southern General Santos city and nearby Sarangani province left a few days before Typhoon Bopha hit the main southern island of Mindanao on Tuesday, triggering flash floods that killed more than 600, Civil Defense chief Benito Ramos said.

Mr. Ramos said the fishermen were headed to the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea and to the Pacific Ocean. He said there has been no contact from them for a week.

After slamming into the southern Philippines, the typhoon moved out to sea, but then veered back toward the country’s northwest on Saturday, prompting worries of more devastation.

As of late Sunday, it had begun to dissipate and weaken into a low-pressure area as it moved farther into the South China Sea, about 65 miles west of the Philippines’ Ilocos Norte province.


Center-left wins parliamentary elections

BUCHAREST — Romania’s center-left government of Prime Minister Victor Ponta won a clear victory in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, according to exit polls.

The result could inflame the personal rivalry between the nation’s top two officials and bring yet more political upheaval.

The prime minister’s governing alliance had about 57 percent of seats in the 452-seat legislature, according to a poll published after elections on national television TVR.

Coming in second was a center-right group, allied to President Traian Basescu, which polled more than 18 percent. A populist party headed by a media tycoon won about 13 percent, according to the poll.

First results are expected Monday.

Mr. Basescu and Mr. Ponta are bitter rivals after the government tried to remove Mr. Basescu from office in an impeachment vote in July, a bid that failed as too few people voted to make the election valid.

Mr. Basescu has indicated he won’t appoint the 40-year-old Mr. Ponta again, calling him a “compulsive liar” and saying he plagiarized his doctoral thesis.

Mr. Ponta says Mr. Basescu is a divisive figure who overstepped his role as president by meddling in government business.


Election contest tightas votes are counted

ACCRA — Preliminary results from Ghana’s presidential balloting indicate a tight race between President John Dramani Mahama and opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo.

Results published Sunday by Ghana’s electoral body show Mr. Akufo-Addo in the lead by about 2 percent, but only 117 out of 275 constituencies had been officially reported by noon Sunday.

People in Ghana’s capital have been glued to their radios since Friday night as local media announce results from polling stations.

One private radio station already has predicted a win for Mr. Mahama, and people have celebrated in the streets, but official results could be days away.

International observers endorsed Ghana’s presidential and parliamentary elections despite delays at polling stations that pushed voting into a second day Saturday.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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