UN agency warns of new bird flu threat
The world risks a surge in bird flu outbreaks unless countries strengthen monitoring of animal diseases, the UN food agency reported Tuesday. The agency said that Asia and the Middle East, where the disease has become epidemic, still possess large reservoirs of the H5N1 virus. In the period between 2003 and 2011 the virus killed at least 300 people and forced the culling of 400 million domestic chickens and ducks worldwide, causing $20 billion in damages.
US Senate panel approves Kerry as Secretary of State
US Senator John Kerry has been approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to replace Hillary Clinton as President Barack Obama’s new secretary of state. A full Senate vote on Kerry is expected later on Tuesday.
Second set of NATO Patriot missiles in Turkey ‘operational’
A second pair of Patriot missile batteries sent by NATO to Turkey is now operational, a German security official said on Tuesday. The US, Germany and the Netherlands each committed to send two batteries and up to 400 soldiers after Ankara asked for help against possible attack from Syria. The two German batteries deployed around the Turkish city of Kahramanmaras some 100km from the Syrian border were in position and ready for use late Monday, Reuters reported. The first pair of batteries, sent by the Netherlands, went operational on Saturday around the city of Adana.
Israel boycotts UN Human Rights Council meeting
No reason has been given for the failure of Israeli representative to turn up in Geneva on Tuesday for a review of its record by the UN human rights body. “We’re in new territory here” with the unprecedented absence without a reason, UN Human Rights Council spokesman Rolando Gomez told the AP. Israel warned last year it would stop cooperating with the council because of an international fact-finding mission into Israeli settlements.
Jordanian government resigns after general election
Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur submitted the cabinet’s resignation to King Abdullah II on Tuesday, following last week’s general election. “Nsur submitted the resignation of the government to his majesty,” AFP reported, citing a palace statement. The government will continue to handle its regular responsibilities until a new government is formed with the consultation of MPs. Tribal leaders, pro-regime loyalists and independent businessmen won most of the seats in the election.
Donors gather $455mln for Mali military operation
More than $450 million has been raised by a donors’ conference in Ethiopia for the military campaign against Islamist extremists in Mali, an African Union official said Tuesday. Ramtane Lamamra said that nations gathered at the African Union’s headquarters in Ethiopia pledged $455.5 million. The African-led Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) called for an initial budget of $461 million. Additional support required by the Malian army and the West African bloc ECOWAS raised the overall financial need to nearly $960 million.
Japanese PM urges new sanctions on N. Korea
Japan and the international community should impose tough new sanctions against North Korea if the country continues its nuclear tests, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday. The statement came after North Korea announced plans last week for nuclear tests, after Pyongyang was strongly criticized and sanctioned by the UN Security Council for test-firing a long-range satellite rocket in December. North Korea claimed that it launched the satellite as a part of its non-military space program.
Niger okays US drones deployment – report
Niger has agreed to station US surveillance drones on its territory to improve efforts to gather intelligence on Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters in northern Mali and the wider Sahara, a senior government source told KOMY. The drone deployment request, immediately accepted by Niger, was made by the US ambassador to Niger, Bias Williams, the source said. The US drones may be deployed in Niger’s northern desert region of Agadez, which borders Mali, Algeria and Libya. The US has already stationed drones and surveillance aircraft around Africa.
Dozens found shot dead execution-style in Aleppo, Syria – NGO
The bodies of at least 68 young men and boys, all executed with a single gunshot to the head or neck, were reportedly found on Tuesday in a river in the Syrian city of Aleppo. A rebel Free Syrian Army captain said more corpses were still being dragged from the Quweiq River in the rebel-held area, AFP said. The bodies will be taken to the hospital at Zarzur, where relatives can then identify them. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the discovery.
Japanese PM ‘open’ to holding economic summit with China
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday that he was open to the possibility of meeting with Chinese leaders to rebuild economic ties damaged by a recent territorial dispute. “We should hold the summit between leaders and have high-level talks,” Reuters quoted Abe as saying on television. Maintaining strong economic ties is vital for both countries, the conservative premier said. However, he also reiterated Japan’s stance on its ownership of the disputed islands: “The Senkaku Islands are our land and China has taken provocative steps against them,” he said, adding that “there is no room for negotiation on this matter.”
Myanmar abolishes ban on public gatherings
Myanmar’s reformist government has abolished a 25-year-old ban on public gatherings of more than five people. The ban was enacted in 1988, on the day a military junta took power after crushing nationwide pro-democracy protests. Order No. 2/88 has been abrogated as it was not in line with the constitution, state-run newspaper Myanma Ahlin said Tuesday. The ban had been applied selectively to crush dissent, until the elected government of President Thein Sein took office in 2011.
Kurdish militants to halt Turkey hostilities in February – report
Kurdish militants are expected to announce in February a ceasefire in hostilities against Turkey, Hurriyet daily said Tuesday. The truce is part of the timetable for a peace process aimed at ending a 28-year-old insurgency. Around 100 fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrilla group will disarm and withdraw from Turkish territory as an initial confidence-building step, the paper reported. Turkish intelligence officials began talks with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in late 2012, and negotiations had also been held with the PKK in northern Iraq. More than 40,000 people have been killed since the rebels took up arms in 1984 to carve out a Kurdish state in southeastern Turkey.