- - Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Workers to pump oil from ship on Saturday

GIGLIO | A barge carrying a crane and other equipment hitched itself to the toppled Costa Concordia on Tuesday, signaling the start of operations to remove a half-million gallons of fuel from the grounded cruise ship.

Actual pumping of the oil isn’t expected to begin until Saturday. Teams from the Dutch shipwreck-salvage firm Smit were working on the bow of the Concordia on Tuesday, and divers were to make underwater inspections to identify the location of the fuel tanks.

Divers who blasted through a submerged section of the third-floor deck located another body from the wreckage, bringing the death toll to 16.

The Concordia ran aground and capsized off the Tuscan island of Giglio on Jan. 13 after the captain veered from his approved course and gashed the ship’s hull on a reef, forcing the panicked evacuation of 4,200 passengers and crew.

The 16 bodies found so far include the one located on the third-floor deck Tuesday.


Israel arrests Hamas lawmaker

RAMALLAH | Israeli forces arrested a Hamas lawmaker at home in the West Bank city of Ramallah overnight, a source from the Islamist movement told Agence France-Presse Tuesday.

Abdul Jaber Fuqaha is the fifth Hamas official to be arrested by Israeli forces in the past five days.

On Thursday, Israeli troops arrested Aziz Dweik, another Hamas member, who is speaker of the Palestinian parliament. He was brought before a military court Tuesday and sentenced to six months of administrative detention, his office said.

On Friday, troops detained Hamas lawmaker Khaled Tafesh at his home in a village east of Bethlehem.

And on Monday, police arrested two senior Hamas officials who had been taking refuge in a building belonging to the International Committee of the Red Cross in annexed East Jerusalem.

Khaled Abu Arafah, a former minister for Jerusalem affairs, and Hamas lawmaker Mohammed Totah were detained Monday inside the Red Cross offices where they had taken refuge since July 1, 2010, alongside two other Hamas lawmakers who have since been arrested and deported to the West Bank.

All four had their Jerusalem ID cards revoked by Israel and were staying in the compound in a bid to avoid being detained.


Premier calls for unity as thousands protest

BUCHAREST | Romania’s prime minister on Tuesday used a national holiday to call for unity as thousands of protesters angry at the government’s failure to reverse falling living standards turned their ire toward state media.

Emil Boc addressed parliament in a special session on the country’s Day of Unity, urging Romanians to work together to overcome economic hardship.

The government has been battling to contain 12 days of demonstrations fueled by frustration pent up since the country’s troubled transition to democracy after its 1989 revolution.

About 5,000 people jeered the government in the northeastern city of Iasi, calling for early elections.

Thousands also massed in Bucharest to rally against harsh austerity measures and marched to the headquarters of the public television station, which they accused of having a pro-government bias.

Romania signed up for a $26 billion loan with the International Monetary Fund, European Union and World Bank in 2009 to help pay salaries and pensions when the economy shrunk by more than 7 percent.

In 2010, the government increased the sales tax from 19 percent to 24 percent and cut public workers’ salaries by one-fourth to reduce the budget deficit.

Romanians are also angry over cronyism, widespread corruption and a perception that the government is not interested in the problems of ordinary people in this nation of 22 million.


Inmates, guards clash in prison, 28 hurt

COLOMBO | Inmates and guards clashed at a Sri Lankan prison Tuesday, injuring at least 28 people before soldiers restored control after five hours, officials said.

Reporters outside heard gunshots from within the compound in Colombo, and police fired tear gas before order was restored. Prisoners also set fire to the records room.

The inmates were protesting a move to curtail drug smuggling into the prison, police spokesman Ajith Rohana said. He said 24 prisoners and four guards were hurt.

Mr. Rohana did not describe the anti-drug measures, but a man who lives near the prison who gave only his first name, Kumara, said there had been disturbances for several days after authorities banned food brought by relatives for the inmates.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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