Italian technician, 2 steel workers kidnapped in Syria
An Italian technician and two employees at a Syrian steel plant have been kidnapped. The abduction took place near the Syrian town Latakia, the Italian foreign ministry said. The kidnapped Italian national is an engineer, and the identity of two other victims has not been revealed, but the two employees were of different nationalities, the foreign minister said.
Iran loses half of oil revenues over sanctions – minister
Tehran is losing half of its oil revenues due to international sanctions imposed over the country’s nuclear program, Economic Minister Shamseddin Hosseini said Monday. “Iran is facing a 50 percent drop in its oil revenues due to sanctions,” AFP quoted Hosseini as saying on television. Iranian exports in November were estimated at 1.3 million barrels per day, down from nearly 2.3 million last year, according to the International Energy Agency. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earlier acknowledged that Iran had “some problems” in selling oil because of the sanctions.
Russian State Duma may bar Americans from adopting Russian children
Russia will completely ban child adoption by US citizens as of January 1, 2013, if an amendment to the 'anti-Magnitsky bill' is approved. It suggests prohibiting the transfer of Russian children to US citizens for adoption and barring the activity of Russian-based agencies and organizations providing adoption-related services to US citizens, Interfax reported. The amendment also suggests unilaterally terminating the agreement on child adoption between Russia and the US, which was signed in Washington on July 13, 2011. The Duma committee on constitutional legislation and state building supported the amendment on Monday as part of the bill "On measures of influence on persons involved in violations of Russian citizens' rights.”
Egyptian protesters demand resignation of Prosecutor General
Public prosecutors in Egypt staged a rally near Egypt's High Court in Cairo on Monday, demanding the resignation of newly appointed Prosecutor General Talaat Abdallah. They threatened to hold a strike if he refused to step down. State security forces cordoned off the court, which is also the Prosecutor General's office, and clashes have been reported.
'No clear winner in Syrian conflict' – Vice President
Syrian Vice President Faruq al-Sharaa said that a clear winner was unlikely to emerge following the country’s 21-month conflict. “No opposition can end the battle militarily, just as the security forces and army cannot achieve a decisive conclusion,” Sharaa told Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar in comments published on Monday. Sharaa, the most prominent Sunni Muslim in Assad's minority Alawite-dominated regime, also said he hoped for a negotiated solution to the civil war. The solution "must be Syrian," but also involve key regional countries and the UN Security Council to form a “national unity government with broad powers,” he said.
Russia signed over $15 bln in military contracts in 2012 – Putin
Russia signed more than $15 billion worth of arms and military-technical contracts in 2012, President Vladimir Putin said on Monday. Speaking at a meeting of the Military-Technical Cooperation Commission, he stressed the importance of restoring Russia's position in the market of modernizing and overhauling military hardware. “We will both preserve the portfolio of military-technical orders and enlarge it,” Interfax quoted him as saying.
EU says tax collection lagging in Greece
The EU has warned that Greek tax collection is still falling short of some key targets that need to be met to reduce the country's debt. The EU's task force on the Greek crisis said in a quarterly report Monday that Athens is having difficulty dealing with its outstanding tax claims. By early November 2012, it was still about 1 billion euro behind the EU's target of recovering 2 billion euro. Greece conducted only 88 audits of large taxpayers, well short of a 2012 target of 300, and 467 audits of high-wealth individuals, below the 1,300 target, the report said. EU Vice President Olli Rehn praised Greece for tackling its problems “with determination and resolve.”
Israel to evict settlers from 4 homes in West Bank’s Hebron
The Israeli government warned Monday it will evict two Jewish settler families from property they seized in the West Bank city of Hebron. Two settler families took over four stalls in the town's Arab wholesale market a decade ago, turning them into homes. The plots are owned by a Jewish family that left the city before Jordan occupied it in the late 1940s, and were rented by Palestinian tenants since then. Israel promised to clear the homes by April 24, though the settlers could request the property be transferred to other Jews. Hebron is home to 180,000 Palestinians.
Gunmen kill intelligence officer in Yemen
Gunmen shot and killed a senior Yemeni intelligence officer in an overnight attack in the eastern province of Hadramawt, a security official said on Monday. “Two unidentified gunmen on a motorbike intercepted Colonel Shakir Awad Al Bani, who was heading home also on a motorbike,” AFP quoted the official as saying. Al-Qaeda militants frequently attack members of the country's security forces, especially across south and east Yemen.
BP sells 50 percent stake in North Sea gas field for $288 mln
Oil company BP said Monday it has sold its half stake in a North Sea gas field to SSE PLC for $288 million. The sale of the 50 percent stake in the Sean gas field, operated by Shell, is part of a broader program of disposing of noncore assets for BP, the company said. BP's share of production from Sean is equivalent to 18,000 barrels of oil per day. BP has recently disposed of some other North Sea assets, but the company still plans to invest $10 billion in British and Norwegian waters over the next five years.
Russia to hand over Kaczynski plane debris to Poland after probe - Lavrov
The debris of a plane, which carried a Polish delegation led by President Lech Kaczynski and crashed near Smolensk in 2010, will be provided to Warsaw after an investigation is completed, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. “There can be no artificial [investigation] deadlines in this case,” he said following Monday negotiations with his Polish counterpart, Radoslaw Sikorski. “The investigation is to be completed before the physical evidence is provided. It's our legislation, and we can't change it,” Interfax quoted Lavrov as saying. Sikorski said delays in transfer of fragments could cast a shadow on bilateral relations. The Polish Air Force Tupolev Tu-154 crashed near Smolensk on April 10, 2010, killing all 96 people aboard.
Belgium says France responsible for Depardieu's tax exile
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders has said that France was solely to blame for Gerard Depardieu seeking tax exile in the neighboring country. The top French actor has also threatened to give up his passport following criticism over his 'unpatriotic' decision to pay tax as a resident of Belgium. Reynders said Monday his country must not be made a “scapegoat” for Depardieu's move. “There have been no measures taken by Belgium to attract any French national,” Reynders told SW, “There has been an evolution in the French tax system which may have had consequences.”
6.1-magnitude earthquake strikes off central Indonesia
A strong 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit off the coast of central Indonesia Monday, the US Geological Survey said. The quake struck at 0916 GMT at a depth of 18 kilometers, more than 160 kilometers south-southeast of Gorontalo in central Indonesia's Sulawesi island. Local seismologists ruled out any threat of a tsunami, AFP said.
Blast hits Lebanese region near Israel border
A large explosion struck southern Lebanon near its border with Israel on early Monday. It was not immediately clear what had caused the blast near the border town of Tair Harfa, Lebanon's National News Agency said. A UN peacekeeping force in the area, UNIFIL, reached the site of the explosion and has begun investigating. No casualties were reported. Hezbollah has cordoned off the area of the explosion, Lebanese security officials said.
Iran releases son of ex-president Rafsanjani on bail – reports
The son of influential former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has been released on bail, Iranian media said. Mahdi Hashemi was reportedly released late Sunday. The younger Hashemi was arrested in late September, a day after he returned to Iran from Britain. He has been charged with corruption and fomenting unrest in the aftermath of Iran's disputed 2009 presidential election. Earlier, his sister Faezeh was taken into custody to serve a six-month sentence on charges of authoring anti-government propaganda.
Explosion hits compound of Afghan army contractor in Kabul
At least one person was killed and 15 more wounded on Monday in a blast inside a Kabul compound owned by a contractor working for the Afghan army, police said. The explosion struck inside a large compound on Jalalabad road, east of the capital, AFP reported. The cause of the blast was not immediately clear. The explosion was not at NATO's Camp Phoenix, which is also on Jalalabad road, a NATO International Security Assistance Force spokesperson said.
5 killed by car bomb in northern Iraq
A car bomb has killed five people and wounded 11 others in northern Iraq, authorities said. On Monday morning, an explosion rocked al-Mouafaqiyah, a village inhabited by families of the Shabak ethnic group. Similar attacks over the last two days have targeted the disputed regions of Iraq. Attacks on Sunday left at least eight dead and dozens wounded.
Landmine blast kills 10 girls in eastern Afghanistan
Ten young girls were killed when a landmine exploded in eastern Afghanistan's Nangarhar province on Monday, officials said. The girls, aged between nine and 11, were collecting firewood, and died when one of them accidentally struck the mine with an axe, AFP quoted Chaparhar district governor Mohammad Sediq Dawlatzai as saying. He claimed that an old mine left over from the 1980s exploded. However, Nangarhar provincial government spokesperson Ahmad Zia Abdulzai blamed Taliban insurgents, saying that the mine was planted by “the enemies of Afghanistan.”
At least 9 killed in bomb attack on Pakistani govt office
A bomb attack Monday at a government office in Pakistan’s northwest tribal region has reportedly killed at least nine people and wounded over 40 others. The bombing took place in Jamrud, the main town of the Khyber tribal region. The attackers placed the bomb in the women’s waiting area of the office of the assistant political agent for one of the top government officials in the area. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Chavez allies win 20 of 23 states in Venezuela gubernatorial vote
Allies of President Hugo Chavez won 20 of 23 states in Venezuela's gubernatorial elections on Sunday. Less than a week ago, the Venezuelan president was operated on in Cuba for cancer for the fourth time. Top opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who lost to Chavez in October's presidential vote, was reelected the governor of Miranda, the second most populous state, beating former Vice President Elias Jaua.