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to put down
Russia's Foreign Ministry said an
announcement by the authorities in
Kiev that they will mobilise the army
to put down a rebellion by pro-Russian
militants in eastern Ukraine was a
e ministry said overnight the west
should bring its allies in Ukraine's
government under control.
"It is now the west's responsibility to
prevent civil war in Ukraine," it said in a
statement posted on Facebook.
It also said that Russia would put an
urgent discussion of the situation in
eastern Ukraine on the agenda of the
United Nations Security Council.
" e situation in south-eastern Ukraine
is taking on an extremely dangerous
character. e authorities in Kiev, who
put themselves in power as a result of
a coup d'etat, have set a course to use
force to put down popular protests," the
"We decisively condemn attempts to
use brute force against protesters and
activists. We are particularly indignant
about the criminal order of (Ukrainian
acting President Oleksander Turchinov)
to use the army to put down protest."
e statement said the west had
sponsored the rulers in Kiev and should
now "rein in its out-of-control proteges,
force them to distance themselves from
neo-Nazis and other extremists, stop
using armed force against the Ukrainian
people, and immediately start a genuine
dialogue". --- Reuters
Smoke from a re billows over Valparaiso city, north-west of Santiago.
Blaze ravages Chilean city
At least 11 people were killed and 500
houses destroyed over the weekend by a
re that devastated parts of the Chilean
port city of Valparaiso, as authorities
evacuated thousands and sent in aircraft
to battle the blaze.
Pushed by strong Paci c coast winds,
the re rampaged over 700ha of forest
and hilly residential neighbourhoods
including La Cruz and Las Canas, local
A police o cial said most of the dead
appeared to be older people.
Some 1200 re ghters were battling
the blaze, using planes and helicopters
to drop water on the ames in the city
135km north-west of Santiago.
e re started on Saturday, and most
of the damage was done that night.
At daybreak, Valparaiso was a stench-
lled scene of smoke, ash and sirens as
residents picked through their gutted
homes and re ghters struggled to put
out the remaining active points of the
"It is still not completely extinguished,"
local government o cial Ricardo Bravo
said, referring to lingering pockets of
re still burning in higher parts of the
Valparaiso's rolling hills and closely
built houses, many of them made of
wood, make it di cult to combat res.
e city, part gritty port town and part
Bohemian retreat, has a large number of
"We are looking for something to
remember the house by, but there's
nothing," Jose Miguel Rivera, 59, said
as he sifted through the ashes where his
home used to be. "We are thinking about
Weather forecasts predicted high
temperatures and strong winds today, a
combination that could exacerbate the
disaster if the remaining ames were not
put out in time.
"We ed from the La Cruz
neighbourhood, from an apartment I
just got not too long ago. It's all burned
down, my sister's house also burned to
the ground," Rosa Guzman said as she
stared helplessly up at the hills.
e Chilean Congress, which is housed
in Valparaiso, was spared by the blaze, as
was the city's historic quarter with its
late 19th century architecture.
ere were no reports that exports of
copper in the world's No 1 producer of
the metal were a ected by the re.
President Michelle Bachelet declared
a state of emergency and sent the army
to maintain order in the city. Marines
patrolled the streets while ambulance
crews treated people for smoke
inhalation and other injuries.
is is the second emergency that
Bachelet has faced in the rst month of
her new term, after an 8.2 earthquake
slammed northern Chile at the start of
April. --- Reuters
At least 36 people are dead after
a bus slammed into the back of
a parked trailer-truck and burst
into ames in Mexico.
O cials say four people were
also injured in the accident, which
happened in the south-eastern
State of Veracruz.
Most of the roof and tyres of
the bus were reduced to ashes,
according to television images.
" e trailer-truck was on the
shoulder of the highway at
kilometre 135 . . . when the bus
hit the back of the trailer, which
caused this regrettable accident,"
Governor Javier Duarte said.
"In addition to crashing, the
bus caught re, which makes the
investigative work to identify
bodies more di cult," he said.
At least 36 people were
con rmed dead, said government
spokesman Alberto Silva Ramos.
Duarte had earlier reported 25
deaths. Silva Ramos said the
truck was badly parked.
A State prosecutor has been
sent to investigate the crash.
e early morning tragedy
happened as the bus was taking
passengers, mostly shopkeepers,
from the south-eastern Tabasco
State city of Villahermosa to
Mexico City. --- AFP
36 dead in Mexican bus crash
A forensic sta member carries a body at the scene of a ery bus crash on a highway near Juan
Rodriguez Clara town. e bus had left Villahermosa in Tabasco State and was en route to Mexico City
when it crashed.
A woman who under went fertility
treatment at a clinic in Rome became
pregnant with the twins of another
couple after their embryos were mixed
Italy's health ministry said it was
launching an investigation into the
error, which was discovered only
when the woman was three months'
e mistake happened on December
4, when four di erent couples were
receiving treatment at a specialist fertility
unit at the Sandro Pertini Hospital in
Rome, La Stampa newspaper reported
It is not clear whether the mistake led
to any of the other women becoming
pregnant with the wrong baby.
Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin
said investigators would look at whether
the hospital had "respected all the legal
procedures" and expressed concern she
had learned about the mistake only
through press reports.
" e national standards on assisted
fertilisation, which are based on
European directives, are very rigorous,
and if applied correctly, guarantee the
traceability of all biological material
used in the reproduction process," she
e local health authority in Rome
said it only became aware there was a
problem of "genetic incompatibility"
between the parents and the embryos on
It said it has halted all embryo
implantations at the clinic until further
e investigation will be led by
geneticist Giuseppe Novelli and will
look into whether there was any further
mix-up of the embryos of two of the
other women. --- AFP
IVF patient pregnant
with wrong embryos
Israel has carried out a new land
appropriation in the occupied West
Bank, the Haaretz daily said overnight,
in a move that could complicate e orts
to extend troubled peace talks with the
Haaretz said the Defence Ministry
declared nearly 100ha of territory in
the Gush Etzion settlement bloc just
south of Jerusalem "State land". Asked
by Reuters about the report, the ministry
declined immediate comment.
e land appropriation, the left-
leaning newspaper said, was the largest
in years and could eventually lead to the
expansion of several settlements and
authorisation of a settler outpost built
without Israeli government permission
e measure, which falls short of
annexing the land to Israel, is based on
an Israeli interpretation of an Ottoman-
era law that allowed the con scation
of tracts that had not been planted or
cultivated for several years in a row.
Haaretz said the heads of nearby
Palestinian villages that claimed the
land as theirs were informed of the move
last week and have 45 days to appeal.
It was not immediately clear whether
the reported appropriation was part
of sanctions that Israel has begun to
impose in response to the April 1 signing
by Palestinians of 15 international
conventions and agreements during the
current crisis in United States-brokered
Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of
the Palestine Liberation Organisation,
accused Israel of trying to destroy
chances for peace through a "frantic
escalation" of settlement activity.
" is is the real face of the Israeli
government," she said. " is is a
government hostile to peace moves and
it's taking steps which have a longer-
Speaking before the Haaretz report
appeared, Israel's chief peace negotiator,
Tzipi Livni said on the YNet news site
that she is optimistic the statehood
negotiations would be extended beyond
the original April 29 deadline for a deal.
"I believe that we are close enough to a
decision on the part of both leaderships,
encouraged by the Americans, to
continue the negotiations," she said.
Livni has been meeting her Palestinian
counterpart Saeb Erekat in an intensive
push over the past few days to try to
salvage the talks.
Last week, US Secretary of State John
Kerry suggested that Israel's publication
on April 1 of a tender for 708 homes
for settlers in east Jerusalem was the
proximate cause for the near collapse of
the talks, which began in July.
Israel's a nti-settlement Peace Now
movement said on its website that at
least 90 of the 120 Jewish settlements
built in the occupied West Bank since its
capture in a 1967 war are on "State land".
Most countries regard the settlements as
Palestinians seek a state in the West
Bank and Gaza Strip, with east Jerusalem
as its capital, and fear settlements will
deny them a viable country. Israel cites
historical and Biblical links to the West
Bank and Jerusalem and says Gush
Etzion is one of the enclaves it intends
to keep in any future peace deal.
Citing Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas's signing of United
Nations human rights conventions,
Israel said on Wednesday it was limiting
its contacts with Palestinian o cials,
although Livni could continue to meet
Announcing another sanction a day
later, an Israeli o cial said Israel would
deduct debt payments from tax transfers
which the Palestinian Authority
routinely receives, and limit the self-rule
government's deposits in Israeli banks.
For his part, Abbas has accused Israel
of violating a commitment to release two
dozen prisoners at the end of March,
including Palestinians convicted of
killing Israelis, when the negotiations
resumed. is is the last group of 104
prisoners Israel pledged to free as a
con dence-building measure. --- Reuters
Israel seizes more West Bank land
Pope Francis has kicked o week-
long observances leading up to Easter
by celebrating Palm Sunday Mass
with some 100,000 pilgrims in a sun-
drenched St Peter's Square.
Dressed in Palm Sunday red, the head
of the Roman Catholic Church led a
traditional procession of palms along
with scores of cardinals, bishops and
For the observance recalling Jesus's
triumphal entry into Jerusalem shortly
before his cruci xion and resurrection,
worshippers carry palm and olive
branches, which the Gospels says were
used to greet Jesus when he entered
In his homily, in which the Argentinian
Ponti frequently strayed from a
prepared text, he asked: "Where is my
heart? . . . Am I like Judas? Capable of
betraying Jesus, (or) like the disciples
who, understanding nothing, slept while
he was su ering?"
Pope Francis urged the faithful to
ask themselves if they were like "the
other disciples who wanted to resolve
everything by the sword", or "like Judas,
who pretended to love Jesus, kissing him
before betraying him".
After the Mass, the 77-year-old
Ponti toured the throng aboard his
white open-top popemobile, posing for
"sel es", kissing babies and enjoying a sip
of mate --- a herbal tea traditional in his
native Argentina --- o ered to him by a
pilgrim. --- AFP
Palm Sunday Mass
e British government has ordered
inspections of 15 schools in Birmingham
after allegations they are being taken
over by Islamic hardliners.
A row has been brewing in the United
Kingdom's second largest city for weeks
since the local council received an
anonymous letter alleging a plot to force
a change of leadership at four State-run
e aim was apparently to impose a
conservative religious agenda, turning
parents against head teachers by telling
them the school is corrupting their
children with sex education, promotion
of homosexuality and making them take
part in Christian prayers.
Unnamed school sta have since made
accusations about gender segregation
and the bullying of non-Muslim sta .
e central English city has one the
highest Muslim populations in the
country. e 2011 census found 22%
of residents were Muslim, compared to
e Birmingham City Council has
been trying to get to the bottom of the
alleged plot and last week froze the
recruitment of school governors pending
the outcome of its inquiries.
Education Secretary Michael Gove
had ordered formal inspections by the
Ofsted watchdog of 15 schools across
the city, a spokeswoman for his ministry
Earlier this month, Prime Minister
David Cameron warned that "we will
not accept any school being run by
extremists or promoting extremist
Speaking on a visit to Birmingham,
he said: "It's not acceptable, we can't
have that happening in our country and
Ofsted have all the powers they need to
Ofsted monitors educational standards
but the Sunday Times newspaper said it
would also look into whether religious
conser vatism was getting in the way of
learning in Birmingham.
If this was found to the case, it could
declare the schools inadequate and
replace governing bodies and head
teachers, the newspaper said.
However, a governor at one of the
schools allegedly targeted in the plot
has hit back, saying it was the victim of
a "witchhunt" and denying allegations of
extremism. --- AFP
British schools 'Islamist
A powerful earthquake with a
magnitude of 7.5 has struck o
the Solomon Islands hours after
a 7.6 tremor, the US Geological
A tsunami warning was issued
for the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu
and Papua New Guinea, the
Paci c Tsunami Warning Centre
said last evening.
e centre said this was based
on the magnitude of the quake.
e warning was later lifted, but
strong currents were predicted
for some areas as far away as New
Zealand's west coast.
e USGS said the quake ---
which it initially assessed at 7.7
--- occurred at 11.36pm local
time at a depth of 35 km, 111km
south of Kirakira in the Solomon
It said the likelihood of
casualties or damage was low.
A 7.6 magnitude quake woke
the residents of the Solomons
capital Honiara early yesterday.
It struck about 300km from
the capital and was followed 10
minutes later by a 5.9-magnitude
e US Geological Survey
measured the undersea quake
about 29km deep.
Honiara resident Dorothy
Wickham said the National
Disaster Council was warning
people to stay away from
low-lying areas as the islands
experienced high waves.
"People are moving away from
the coasts and are going up into
the hills, but I have not heard of
any damage," she said.
Oceanographic Commission put
out a tsunami warning for the
Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and
Papua New Guinea following
the morning quake but later
cancelled the alert.
e Solomons were hit by ash
oods 10 days ago which left
more than 20 dead. Several more
are still missing in Honiara after
the city's main river burst its banks
following days of heavy rain.
A 6.1-magnitude tremor hit
the Solomons on Saturday and
a 7.1-magnitude quake and 6.7
aftershock struck o Papua New
Guinea's Bougainville island on
A Saudi court has ordered a liberal
internet forum to permanently close
for publishing what it described as anti-
Islamic material, Saudi media reported
e decision by the general court in
Jeddah came less than nine months after
the editor of the "Free Saudi Liberals"
website, Raif Badawi, was sentenced
to seven years in jail and 600 lashes for
setting up a forum that violated Islamic
"By order of the court, this network
has been closed permanently," an
administrative message on Badawi's
website www.humanf.org said.
International human rights groups
and activists inside Saudi Arabia say the
kingdom's authorities are seeking to curb
political, religious and social dissent in
the birthplace of Islam. e government
denies there is a crackdown.
Saudi news websites www.akhbar24.
com and wwww.sabq.org said that the
Jeddah court's ruling was due to "the
subjects and comments that had been
published in the past in violation of the
teachings of the religion (Islam) and
which had stirred controversy."
A Justice Ministry spokesman said he
was checking the report.
Saudi media last July reported that a
court found Badawi, who was arrested
in June 2012, guilty of setting up an
Internet forum that violated Islamic
values and propagated liberal thought.
It also convicted him of disobeying his
father --- a crime in the conservative
Badawi's website had included articles
that were critical of senior religious
gures such as the Grand Mufti,
according to Human Rights Watch.
e world's top oil exporter follows
the strict Wahhabi school of Islam and
applies Islamic law, or sharia.
Judges base their decisions on their
own interpretation of religious law
rather than on a written legal code or on
King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia's ruler,
has pushed for reforms to the legal
system, including improved training for
judges and the introduction of precedent
to standardise verdicts and make courts
However, Saudi lawyers say that
conservatives in the Justice Ministry and
the judiciary have resisted implementing
many of the changes announced in 2007.
Saudi liberal website closed
Boko Haram Islamists are accused of
killing at least 60 people in Nigeria's
troubled north-eastern Borno State
close to the border with Cameroon.
" e attackers, who are no doubt Boko
Haram insurgents, attacked Amchaka
and nearby villages, hurling IEDs
(improvised explosive devices) into
homes and setting them on re," Bama
local government administrator Baba
Shehu Gulumba said overnight.
" ey then went on a shooting spree,
opening re on confused residents as
they tried to ee, killing 60 people and
injuring several others," Gulumba told
reporters from Maiduguri, the State
e attackers stormed Amchaka and
neighbouring villages in Bama district
using trucks, motorcycles and two
armoured vehicles, shooting residents
and torching homes, he said.
Other local sources also con rmed the
attack but did not give a death toll.
e assailants vandalised boreholes,
the only water source for the villagers,
e attacks have prompted a mass
exodus of people from villages in the
Following a spate of brutal attacks on
schools and universities, around 400
students in the state had boycotted
university entrance exams on Saturday,
o cials said. --- AFP
At least 60 killed in
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