- - Tuesday, May 8, 2012

GENEVA — Fighting in parts of Syria has morphed into local guerrilla wars, the Red Cross said Tuesday, where the number of prisoners remains unknown and 1.5 million people need help getting food, water, shelter, power and sanitation.

Fighting in the central city of Homs, where U.N. observers helped halt weeks of artillery attacks, and in the northern Syrian town of Idlib are now noninternational armed conflicts, said Jakob Kellenberger, president of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

“The type of the violence has changed a little bit,” Mr. Kellenberger told a news conference at ICRC headquarters in Geneva. “At least in recent weeks, you have no longer these big battles like one had in Homs in the second half of February. You have more guerrilla attacks and bomb attacks.”

Tens of thousands of people are living in public buildings or other people’s homes, and the Red Cross and Syrian Arab Red Crescent is feeding about 100,000 “particularly vulnerable” Syrians, he said.

Mr. Kellenberger spoke ahead of international envoy Kofi Annan’s assessment of the revolt in Syria to the U.N. Security Council later Tuesday.

He also said ICRC has gained permission to visit detainees at Aleppo’s central prison from May 14 to 23 and is pushing for access to others.


Netanyahu unveils unity government

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled a revamped coalition government Tuesday, forming a broad alliance with the chief opposition party that could free his hand to take action on peace with the Palestinians and decide whether to attack Iran.

In a stunning reversal, Mr. Netanyahu called off plans to hold early parliamentary elections and struck an agreement with the rival Kadima party.

Mr. Netanyahu now presides over a coalition with 94 seats in the 120-member parliament, one of the broadest governments in Israeli history.

Mr. Netanyahu and Kadima’s leader, Shaul Mofaz, appeared together at a midday news conference, saying their alliance would bring much-needed stability to Israeli politics.

They promised close cooperation on Iran and expressed hope that long-stalled peace talks with the Palestinians would resume, though signs of differences on the Palestinian issue quickly surfaced.

Mr. Netanyahu’s current coalition, which had been remarkably stable since taking office in March 2009, has been riven by divisions in recent weeks over court orders to demolish two West Bank settlement outposts and to end draft exemptions for tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men.

Unable to bridge these differences, Mr. Netanyahu announced Monday he would push for early elections in September, more than a year ahead of schedule.

But in an overnight deal that stunned the nation, he instead joined forces with Kadima, the largest party in parliament, with 28 seats.


Nuclear inspector killed in car crash

TEHRAN — A U.N. nuclear inspector from South Korea was killed Tuesday and a colleague was injured in a car crash near a reactor site in central Iran, news reports said.

There were no immediate indications of foul play. But the crash is likely to undergo intense scrutiny.

The official Islamic Republic News Agency said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspector died when the car overturned around a heavy water reactor being built in Khondab, about 150 miles southwest of Tehran.

Iran says the reactor - part of the Arak complex - will be used to produce isotopes for peaceful medical and industrial uses.

But the U.S. and others fear that spent fuel from the reactors could be reprocessed into plutonium for a warhead. Iran denies it seeks nuclear weapons.

The Islamic Republic News Agency identified the fatally injured inspector as Seo Ok-Seok. The semiofficial news agency ISNA says another inspector from Slovakia was injured in the crash and taken to a hospital.

The Vienna-based IAEA had no immediate comment on the reports.

The incident comes ahead of a new round of technical discussions between Tehran and the IAEA to be held in Vienna beginning Sunday.

Higher-level negotiations also are planned later this month in Baghdad between envoys from Iran and six world powers including the United States.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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