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Hugo Chavez not in coma, according to brother
Venezuela's cancer-stricken President Hugo Chavez is recovering in Cuba and is not in a coma as some have rumored a month after surgery, his brother, Adan Chavez, said after a visit to Havana.
The 58-year-old socialist leader has not been seen or heard from since his December 11 cancer surgery - his fourth such operation after the disease was detected in his pelvic area in mid-2011 - leaving Venezuela in a state of national suspense.
Expert says earthquakes are behind China landslide that killed 46
A landslide in southwest China that killed 46 people was partly caused by an earthquake that hit the region four months ago, a geological expert said on Saturday.
Unstable soil and steep slopes also contributed to Friday's landslide in Yunnan province, the state-run news agency Xinhua quoted Jiang Xingwu as saying.
Rescuers search for survivors after a landslide hit Zhenxiong county, Yunnan province January 11, 2013. The death toll from a landslide that hit a mountainous region in southwest China's Yunnan Province on Friday has risen to 42, after more bodies were retrieved, Xinhua News Agency reported. REUTERS/China Daily
Security source says Italian consul in Benghazi shot at but unhurt
TRIPOLI, Jan 12 (Reuters) - An Italian consul came under fire in his car in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on Saturday, but the vehicle's armour protected him and he was unharmed, a security source told Reuters.
"They shot at his car, but the car was armoured. He is fine, there are no injuries," said the source, who declined to be named.
MORE THAN 100 KILLED IN FRENCH AIR STRIKES AND FIGHTING OVER MALI TOWN - MALI MILITARY AND WITNESSES
French govt says Somalia raid not linked to Mali operation
PARIS, Jan 12 (Reuters) - An operation by French armed forces to rescue a hostage being held in Somalia was not linked to France's military intervention in Mali to help quash a push south by Islamist rebels, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Saturday.
"The two operations are totally unconnected," Le Drian told a news conference.
France had been concerned that other hostages held in Africa would be at risk if they intervened against al Qaeda-linked fighters in Mali.
French army says no current plan to target northern Mali
PARIS, Jan 12 (Reuters) - France is building up its military intervention in Mali to help quash a rebel offensive but has no current plans to extend operations to northern areas controlled by the Islamists, army chief Edouard Guillaud said on Saturday.
Guillaud told reporters extra military planes had been sent to Africa, after strikes had destroyed half a dozen pick-up trucks belonging to the rebels, and that Rafale fighter jets could strike from bases in France.
"We are in the build-up phase of operations ... As you know we have planes in Africa and have added more," he said, adding that there was no plan to send ground troops towards the north. "The quicker the African mission is on the ground, the less we will need to help the Malian army."
Niger says sending 500 soldiers to Mali operation
PARIS, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Niger will send 500 soldiers to join an international military campaign in Mali led by West African regional bloc ECOWAS to quash advances by Islamist rebels, Foreign Minister Mohamed Bazoum told Reuters on Saturday.
"We are sending a battalion of around 500 individuals under the ECOWAS plan," Bazoum told Reuters by telephone, adding that he could not say exactly when the troops would arrive.
Malian soldiers drive on the streets of the capital Bamako, January 12 2013. ECOWAS will begin sending soldiers to Mali by Monday as part of a mission to drive al Qaeda-linked fighters from the country's north, an Ivory Coast government official said on Saturday. REUTERS/Joe Penney
Islamists say Mali intervention will put French citizens at risk
BAMAKO, Jan 12 (Reuters) - France's military intervention against Islamist fighters in northern Mali will put French citizens at risk, a spokesman for insurgent group Ansar Dine said on Saturday.
"There are consequences, not only for French hostages, but also for all French citizens whereever they find themselves in the Muslim world," Sanda Ould Boumama told Reuters. "We are going to continue resisting and defend ourselves. We are ready to die fighting."
Pakistani Taliban say they will not attack army in key region by Jibran Ahmad
PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Jan 12 (Reuters) - The Pakistani Taliban said on Saturday they would not attack the Pakistani army in the Taliban stronghold of North Waziristan but concentrate attacks on NATO forces in Afghanistan instead.
Thousands of Pakistani soldiers are stationed in North Waziristan, along the Afghan border. There have been infrequent clashes there between the soldiers and Taliban but a leaflet issued by Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud ordered those to stop. A senior commander confirmed the pamphlet's veracity.
(Reporting By Katharine Houreld; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
The Pentagon is weighing options in Mali following French air strikes on Friday against Islamist rebels, including intelligence-sharing with France and logistics support, a U.S. official told Reuters.
"Discussions are ongoing," the official said on condition of anonymity.
Western governments, particularly former colonial power France, voiced alarm after the al Qaeda-linked rebel alliance captured the central Malian town of Konna on Thursday, a gateway towards the capital of Bamako 375 miles (600 km) farther south.
REUTERS: PENTAGON WEIGHING OPTIONS IN MALI INCLUDING LOGISTICS SUPPORT, INTEL SHARING WITH FRANCE-US OFFICIAL
French President Francois Hollande announced that he has sent forces to Mali to help the government fight Islamist insurgents. Deborah Gembara reports.
The public viewing deck of western Europe's largest building, the Shard, is set to open on February 1. REUTERS/Luke Macgregor
Malian army retakes central town from Islamists
BAMAKO, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Mali's armed forces retook the central town of Konna from Islamist rebels with French military support on Friday, a Malian defence ministry official and residents said.
"The Malian army has retaken Konna with the help of our military partners. We are there now,” Lieutenant Colonel Diaran Kone told Reuters.
A local shopkeeper confirmed that the army had entered the town, which had been seized on Thursday by the al Qaeda-linked insurgents who control Mali's desert north.
(Reporting By Bate Felix; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
This week from India Insight:
LoC killings: Is a third-party probe the way ahead?
The death toll on the Line of Control in Kashmir is four since Jan. 6: two from India’s military, two from Pakistan’s. One thing is sure: neither side started it, judging by what you hear from both countries’ armed forces and from media reports.-Sankalp Phartiyal
Bold moves, smart timing on rail fares, diesel proposal
In a rare move, the railways minister on Wednesday announced an across-the-board increase in passenger fares starting Jan. 21, the first such step in nine years. It seems that the government timed its announcement perfectly.-Aditya Kalra
Short skirts, bad stars and chow mein: why India’s women get raped
If you thought the Delhi gang rape would cause a serious debate on women’s rights in India, you’d be half right. Let’s look at the other half: last December’s brutal incident seems to have put a spell on India’s politicians, holy men and otherwise educated people.-Shilpa Jamkhandikar
Delhi gang rape: Fast-track courts, juvenile laws don’t guarantee justice
During the anti-rape protests across India in December, two slogans stood out among all the placards and banners — “Hang the rapists” and “We want justice”.-Shashank Chouhan
It was a case that stirred national debate and forced the state government in New Delhi to set up five fast-track courts to try sexual offences against women.
France carried out air strike in Mali -foreign min
PARIS, Jan 11 (Reuters) - France's air force carried out an air strike in Mali on Friday as it supported government forces trying to halt a push south by Islamist rebels who control the north, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.
Asked at a news conference whether there had been an air strike since France began its military intervention a few hours earlier, Fabius replied, "Yes."
He said as far as he knew France was the only country that was assisting the Malian government militarily for now.
(Reporting by John Irish and Vicky Buffery; Writing by Catherine Bremer)
People attend funeral prayers for a victim who was killed by a bomb blast, in Mangora, Swat valley, January 11, 2013. The death toll from a series of bombings in two Pakistani cities on Thursday, one of the bloodiest days in the country's history, has reached 114, police said Friday. REUTERS/Hazrat Ali Bacha
France says has begun military intervention in Mali
PARIS, Jan 11 (Reuters) - France launched military intervention in Mali on Friday to help the government there stem a push southwards by Islamist rebels who control much of the north, President Francois Hollande said.
He said United Nations Security Council resolutions provided the legal framework for him to respond to a request made on Thursday by Mali's interim president for military assistance. Hollande said he was supported by West African nations.
"French forces brought their support this afternoon to Malian army units to fight against terrorist elements," Hollande said in a brief statement to reporters in Paris. "This operation will last as long as is necessary."
EU to speed up preparations for Mali army training mission
BRUSSELS Jan 11 (Reuters) - The European Union will speed up preparations to send a team to Mali to train the country's army after Islamist rebels seized the strategic northern town of Konna, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Friday.
Condemning the rebel attacks, Ashton said the situation underlined the need for "enhanced and accelerated international engagement" to help restore state authority throughout Mali.
U.S. President Barack Obama meets his Afghanistani counterpart Hamid Karzai in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, January 11, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed
Flags, flowers and candles displayed by members of the Kurdish community are seen in front of the entrance of the Information Centre of Kurdistan in Paris, where three Kurdish women were found shot dead, January 11, 2013. Three female Kurdish activists including a founding member of the PKK rebel group were shot dead in Paris, January 10, 2013, in execution-style killings condemned by Turkish politicians trying to broker a peace deal. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
Afghan troop levels top agenda for Obama-Karzai talks
(Reuters) - President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai will hold a critical round of talks on Friday that could help determine how fast the United States withdraws troops from Afghanistan and whether it leaves a residual force after 2014.
Hosting Karzai at the White House, Obama faces the challenge of pressing ahead with his re-election pledge to continue winding down the long war in Afghanistan while preparing the Afghan government to prevent a slide back into chaos and a Taliban resurgence once most NATO forces are gone.
REUTERS: EU TO SPEED UP PREPARATIONS FOR DEPLOYMENT OF MILITARY TRAINING MISSION TO MALI-EU'S ASHTON
Rebels say have seized helicopter base in Syria
BEIRUT, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Rebels have seized the Taftanaz air base in northern Syria after months of fighting, activists and rebels said on Friday.
The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the airport was taken after a renewed assault was launched earlier this month.
Rebels from the Islamic Front, an alliance of several Islamist units, said Taftanaz is the largest helicopter base in northern Syria and the second largest in the country.
LIVE UPDATES on Syria on our SYRIA LIVE stream
This Day in History: January 11, 1972 — East Pakistan renames itself Bangladesh.by CFR_org via twitter 1/11/2013 2:50:17 PM
Women hold banners urging national talks to end the political paralysis in the south of Mali, in the capital Bamako January 10, 2013. Mali's army clashed with Islamist rebels along the front line in northern Mali on Thursday and said its forces had seized an important town, but the insurgents denied the claim. REUTERS/Francois Rihouay
Pakistan Shi'ite leader criticises army chief after bombings
Jan 11 (Reuters) - In a rare challenge, a Shi'ite leader publicly criticised powerful Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Kayani over security in the country after bombings aimed at the minority sect killed 114 people.
"I ask the army chief: What have you done with these extra three years you got (in office). What did you give us except more death," Maulana Amin Shaheedi, who heads a national council of Shi'ite organisations, told a news conference.
(Reporting by Mehreen Zahra-Malik; Writing by Michael Georgy)
There's a new man at the helm of China's Communist Party, and Terril Yue Jones and Benjamin Kang Lim have the details on what to expect from him.
When Xi Jinping became the new leader of China’s Communist Party two months ago, hopes were high for reform in the giant nation. But despite what appears to be sensitive handling of a strike by journalists and a challenge to Beijing's tight control of the press, signs of change seem tentative.Read the full story here.
The stubborn war in Afghanistan, which has spanned a decade and cost more than 2,000 American lives, has now faded to one key question: How many U.S. troops will remain after 2014?-New Afghan war over U.S. troop levels, by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
This is the issue that will likely occupy President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai when they meet at the White House on Friday. Officials are already batting numbers about, ranging from zero to 20,000.
A man attempts to clear water off a flooded street caused by heavy rain at Hay al-Sellom in Beirut's southern suburbs, January 9, 2013. Heavy rain and snow has affected Lebanon's capital city of Beirut since Saturday, resulting in four deaths and causing traffic chaos across the city. REUTERS/Sharif Karim
Women embrace in grief after an attack in Kibusu village at Tana Delta region of the Kenyan Coast, January 10, 2013. At least 10 people were killed on Thursday when armed raiders torched more than a dozen houses in Kenya's restive Tana River area, the Red Cross said, the latest tit-for-tat attack police say is linked to upcoming elections. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola Read more here.
Mali Islamists capture key town, residents flee
By Tiemoko Diallo
BAMAKO, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Islamist rebels drove the Malian army out of the strategic northern town of Konna on Thursday, local residents said, in the fiercest fighting since militant groups seized control of northern Mali nine months ago.
The seizure of the northern two-thirds of Mali by an alliance of al Qaeda-linked rebels has raised concern Islamists would use the desert zone, an area larger than France, as a launch pad to stage international attacks.
Egypt's Mursi names new central bank chief
CAIRO, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi has named Hisham Ramez, a former deputy central banker, as the new central bank chief after accepting the resignation of Farouk El-Okdah, the government said in a statement on Thursday.
Ramez is expected to assume his duties on Feb. 3 following the approval of the upper house of parliament, it said.
(Reporting by Tom Perry Writing by Maria Golovnina Editing by Patrick Werr)
New Russian nuclear submarine goes into service
"Comrade commander-in-chief! ... The vessel has been handed over to the Russian navy," Shoigu told Putin in a message shown on state television from the Sevmash shipyard in the White Sea port of Severodvinsk.
Read more on the new class of submarine here.
Richardson says didn't meet detained American on North Korea trip
BEIJING Jan 10 (Reuters) - Former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson and Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt failed to secure the release of a Korean-American held in North Korea since December during a controversial trip to the secretive state.
Richardson told a media briefing at Beijing's airport on Thursday he was unable to meet Korean-American Kenneth Bae, who has been charged with unspecified crimes against the state.
He said he had expressed his concerns to North Korean authorities and had been assured of Bae's good health.
Schmidt said in brief remarks his visit was private and was to talk about a free and open Internet.
Full story here.
Female Kurdish activists including former guerrilla shot in Paris
PARIS/ISTANBUL Jan 10 (Reuters) - A female founder member of the Kurdish PKK rebel group and two other female activists were shot dead in Paris overnight in execution-style killings that cast a shadow over peace moves between Ankara and the guerrillas.
Read the full story here. Photo below.
Slain Sakine Caniz (L) is seen with Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) chief Abdullah Ocalan in this 1995 file photo. REUTERS/Ihlas News Agency
A photo released by Syria's state news agency, SANA, shows Damascus blanketed by snow on January 10, 2013.
Afghans say total U.S. pullout would trigger disaster
KABUL, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Afghan lawmakers said on Wednesday disaster and civil war would follow if Washington pushed ahead with a suggestion to withdraw all its troops from the country after 2014.
The White House said a day earlier it was considering the so-called "zero option" of a complete pullout - despite earlier recommendations from the top military commander in Afghanistan to keep soldiers there to help the government.
That option and the angry reaction from Afghan officials are likely to dominate talks between President Barack Obama and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai in Washington on Friday.
Read the full story here.
Turkey transfers $500 mln in badly needed funds to Egypt -agency
CAIRO, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Turkey transferred $500 million in badly needed budget support to Egypt on Thursday in the final tranche of a $1 billion loan promised last year, Egypt's state news agency quoted the Egyptian ambassador to Ankara as saying.
Turkey announced the loan in late September during a visit to Ankara by President Mohamed Mursi.Egypt has spent hundreds of millions of dollars of its foreign reserves over the last few weeks to tackle a currency crisis sparked by political turmoil.
Qatar said on Tuesday it had lent Egypt $2 billion and given it another $500 milllion, money which the central bank said landed in Egypt in December.
(Reporting by Omar Fahny and Tamim Elyan Writing by Patrick Werr Editing by Maria Golovnina)
Palestinians walk along a snow covered road in the West Bank village of Halhul near Hebron January 9, 2013. At least 17 people have died due to a winter storm in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Israel and the Palestinian territories. Meteorological agencies in Israel and Lebanon both called it the worst storm in 20 years. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
LONDON - U.S. counter-terrorism officials backed negotiations with two prominent jihadi clerics in a failed attempt to save the life of an American hostage who was later beheaded by Islamic State militants, the Guardian newspaper reported on Friday.