Wednesday, February 22, 2012

World news roundup

Photo caption: A fighter from the Free Syrian Army in Saqba (Via NYT)

--> Syria: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces, trying to hammer the city of Homs into submission, today killed 19 more people including two Western journalists in an onslaught that has caused an international outcry for intervention to end the bloodshed.

Hundreds of people have been killed in daily bombardments of Homs by Assad's besieging forces using artillery, rockets and Soviet-built T-72 tanks, stoking fears of Assad subjecting the city to the same devastation as his late father inflicted on the rebellious town of Hama 30 years ago, killing at least 10,000.

With diplomacy to halt Syria's bloodshed at a standstill and Assad's forces intensifying offensives to wipe out rebels, the United States appeared to open the door to eventually arming the Syrian opposition, saying that if a political solution to the crisis was impossible it might have to consider other options.

The Homs district of Baba Amro where the 19 deaths were reported has been under bombardment since February 3, taking the conflict to a new dimension which is bound to dominate "Friends of Syria" talks in Tunis on Friday where U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets officials from 70 countries and groups.

In a further sign of worsening carnage in Syria, activists said that troops and militia loyal to Assad captured and shot dead 27 young men yesterday in northern villages in the thick of an 11-month-old uprising against his autocratic rule. (Via Reuters)

--> Afghanistan: US embassy in Kabul on lockdown amid riots

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--> Iran: Two days of talks in Iran went nowhere and the frustration of the global nuclear watchdog agency was palpable in the terse statement it issued afterward.

The International Atomic Energy Agency team could not make progress with Iran. Nor was it able to to visit a military base at Parchin, southeast of Tehran before leaving the country Tuesday.

"Intensive efforts were made to reach agreement on a document facilitating the clarification of unresolved issues in connection with Iran's nuclear program, particularly those relating to possible military dimensions," an IAEA statement on the visit read. "Unfortunately, agreement was not reached on this document.

"It is disappointing that Iran did not accept our request to visit Parchin during the first or second meetings," IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said in the statement. "We engaged in a constructive spirit, but no agreement was reached."

In the meantime, Israel is making clear it is pondering an attack on Iran's nuclear infrastructure. Israel is widely believed to have nuclear weapons itself, though it has never declared itself a nuclear power and considers Iran an existential threat. (Via CNN)

--> Italy: Salvage divers discovered four bodies on today in the submerged part of the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship, NBC News has learned.

The location of the bodies and the rough sea conditions will make it difficult to bring the bodies to shore. No information has been released about the victims' identity or nationality. The confirmed death toll has risen to 21 and 11 passengers remain missing.

Italian authorities stopped searching the ship for passengers at the end of January due to dangerous conditions.

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