agreement’ on austerity
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s coalition government reached a “basic agreement” Thursday on a new round of harsh austerity cuts demanded by its international lenders.
The measures, secured after weeks of fruitless efforts, had to be agreed or Greece would have been cut off from vital bailout loans that it needs to pay its way and keep it in the 17-country group that uses the euro.
Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras said the long-delayed agreement placed him in a stronger negotiating position ahead of talks Monday with representatives of the country’s bailout creditors, who will have the final word on the cutbacks.
He said Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ deliberations with the heads of his two junior coalition partners resulted in “a basic agreement” on the measures intended to ax some €11.5 billion ($14.8 billion) off state spending in 2013-14.
Under its bailout commitments, Athens must also boost state revenues by an additional €2 billion over the next two years through tax reform and improved tax collection.
The three-party meeting came a day after more than 50,000 anti-austerity protesters took to the streets of Athens, in a demonstration marred by clashes between hooded anarchist youths and riot police.
Religious radicals sought
for Kazakh mass murder
MOSCOW (AP) — Police in Kazakhstan said Thursday they are seeking two members of a radical religious organization for last month’s murder of 12 people at a national park near the commercial capital, Almaty.
The burnt bodies of the victims, including a park ranger known for his fight against poaching, were found in the Ile-Alatau national park in late August. They had been stabbed to death.
Police identified the suspects as Sayan Khairov and Zaurbek Botabayev, born in 1975 and 1978 respectively. They did not identify the organization the two allegedly belong to, describing it only as an “extremist religious group.”
The Interior Ministry said in a statement the two suspects are also suspected of involvement in an explosion at a house on the outskirts of Almaty in July where seven people died.
Kazakhstan, a sprawling mainly Muslim former Soviet nation west of China, saw a surge last year in terrorist activity apparently linked to Islamist extremism. Several attacks have been reported over the summer after a largely quiet first half of the year.
German police: Woman
suspected of killing 5 babies
BERLIN (AP) — A 28-year-old woman in Germany killed her five infants shortly after giving birth to them in secret at home and in the woods, and hid their bodies because she worried her husband would leave her if she had any more children, authorities said Thursday.
The woman, who has been arrested on five counts of manslaughter, made a “comprehensive confession” to the killings after turning herself in as a six-year investigation closed in on her, said Ulrike Stahlmann-Liebelt, the head prosecutor in Flensburg, on Germany’s border with Denmark.
Stahlmann-Liebelt said the woman, whose name was not released in accordance with German privacy laws, has two living children, aged 8 and 10. But then in 2006 she began hiding her pregnancies, staying away from doctors and hospitals and killing the infants after giving birth to two at home and three in the woods, she said.
“She had the impression her husband would leave her if she had any more children, and that’s why she didn’t tell anyone she was pregnant, including her husband,” Stahlmann-Liebelt said.
“She has said that the family lived at a certain level of prosperity, that it was clear her husband did not want any more children, and that one reason was to preserve this standard, and she feared that might be endangered if another child were there.”
The husband has told police that he knew nothing about the pregnancies, Stahlmann-Liebelt said, and it wasn’t entirely clear how the woman managed to keep them secret.
Syria tells rebels on mobile phones: “Game over”
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syrian authorities have sent text messages over cell phones nationwide with a message for rebels fighting President Bashar Assad’s regime: “Game over.”
The messages signed by the Syrian Arab Army also urge the rebels to surrender their weapons and warn the countdown to evict foreign fighters has begun.
Syrians say they began receiving the messages Thursday, a day after rebels bombed a military command center in Damascus — a major security breach of the heavily guarded capital.
Despite the high-profile attack, the two sides have been locked in a stalemate after 18 months of conflict.
Last month, Syrian army helicopters dropped leaflets warning rebels in Damascus to hand over their arms and seek amnesty.
WHO urges docs to watch
for new SARS-like virus
LONDON (AP) — Global health officials have alerted doctors to be on the lookout for a virus related to SARS but said there were no signs the disease was behaving like the respiratory syndrome that killed hundreds in 2003.
The World Health Organization announced this week that a new coronavirus had been found in a critically ill Qatari man who was being treated in London as well as in a Saudi Arabian man who died several months earlier. Genetic sequencing found the viruses in the two men to be nearly identical.
The two men might have been infected directly by animals, however, and there was no proof of human-to-human spread of the virus, WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said Thursday.
“This is not SARS, it is a new virus and very distinct from SARS,” he said. “There are still a lot of unanswered questions, so we cannot predict what might happen.”
Hartl said WHO could not elaborate on the men’s cases until investigations by national authorities were finished.
The new coronavirus is from a family of viruses that cause the common cold as well as SARS, the severe acute respiratory syndrome that killed about 800 people, mostly in Asia in a 2003 epidemic.
SARS jumped to people from civet cats and then mutated into a form easily spread among humans.
China hits back at Japan
PM’s statement on islands
BEIJING (AP) — China on Thursday assailed Japan’s prime minister as obstinate and wrong for saying his nation won’t compromise in their island dispute, as Japanese lawmakers and business leaders visited Beijing with hopes of mending ties.
Relations between Japan and China are at their lowest in years because of their spat over the island group in the East China Sea known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. Japan says it bought the islands this month to thwart Japanese nationalists’ more radical plans to develop them. But China saw the move as wrecking a prior arrangement with Tokyo, and it and many Chinese have responded with outrage.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said in New York on Wednesday that the islands are clearly an “inherent part of our territory, in light of history and international law.” He said that issues over the islands should be resolved peacefully and by the rule of law.
In response, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Thursday that “China is strongly disappointed and sternly opposes the Japanese leader’s obstinacy regarding his wrong position.” His statement repeated China’s stance that Japan was ignoring historical facts and international laws.
“The country seriously challenges the postwar international order, but tries to take the rules of international law as a cover. This is self-deceiving,” Qin said in a separate statement.
Mexico catches Zetas
drug capo ‘El Taliban’
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico appeared to strike a major blow against one faction of the hyper-violent Zetas cartel, with the navy announcing it has captured one of the country’s most-wanted drug traffickers, Ivan Velazquez Caballero, known as “El Taliban.”
Velazquez Caballero has been fighting a bloody internal battle with top Zetas’ leader Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, and officials have said the split was behind a recent surge in massacres and shootouts, particularly in northern Mexico.
“A person who is presumed to be, and acknowledges being, Ivan Velazquez Caballero, was captured in the state of San Luis Potosi” in north-central Mexico, the navy said in a statement on Wednesday.
Officials were presenting Velazquez Caballero to the media Thursday morning.
Also known as “Z-50,” Velazquez Caballero has a 30 million peso ($2.3 million) reward on his head.