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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

North Korea Threatens to Void Korean War Armistice

North Korea has threatened to cancel the 1953 ceasefire agreement that halted the Korean War, saying that it was being provoked by the staging of two-month-long war games by South Korea and the US. “We will completely nullify the Korean armistice”, said the country’s official news agency, quoting the spokesman of the Korean People’s Army. “The war exercise being done by the United States and the puppet south Korea is a systematic act of destruction aimed at the Korean armistice”, it added. Another communique threatened to strike the US with “lighter and smaller” nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council held closed-door talks on new sanctions against North Korea over its third nuclear test in February. No details were given, but the country is already under a number of different sanctions against individuals and government bodies, restricting financial transactions and barring the trade of sensitive technologies related to ballistic missiles or nuclear energy.

Syrian Civil War Spills into Iraq

The Syrian conflict appeared to spill over into Iraq late on Monday as a bus carrying 40 Syrian government soldiers seeking refuge within the country was ambushed by unidentified gunmen. All Syrian soldiers were killed along with another seven Iraqis. A spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki accused “armed groups from the Iraqi and Syrian side” for the attack and said the Iraqi government would place more troops on the border with Syria. “We will not allow any terrorist to enter the Iraqi lands”, said the spokesman during an interview with the New York Times. The attack could heighten tensions within Iraq. The country’s Shia majority aligns itself with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose minority Alawite sect is a branch of Shiite Islam. Iraqi Sunnis tend to sympathise with Syria’s rebel movement. “In that region, the tribes go right across the Syrian border, and most people are related by blood”, said Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma.

Venezuelan President Chávez Suffers ‘New, Severe Infection’

Venezuelan Information Minister Ernesto Villegas read a statement on state television on Monday night saying that President Hugo Chávez had suffered a “new, severe infection”, adding that “the commander-president remains clinging to Christ and to life, conscious of the difficulties he is facing, and complying strictly with the program designed by his medical team”. The 58-year-old leader has not been seen in public since undergoing surgery in Cuba on December 11, the fourth since a cancer was detected in his pelvic area in 2011. “The lack of precise information worries Venezuelans and contributes to the rumours”, said Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, executive-secretary of the opposition Democratic Unity coalition. Should Chávez resign or die, an election would be held within 30 days and would pit his vice-president, Nicolás Maduro, against opposition leader Henrique Capriles. Polls show Maduro as the clear favourite, boosted by his anointment by an ailing Chávez.

UK Climbs Premature Death Table

The UK has a significantly worse record of premature death from many diseases than 18 other comparable countries, according to findings published in the Lancet medical journal. The authors compared the country’s record in a range of health indicators against 14 other EU countries alongside Australia, Canada, Norway and the US. In 1990 the UK ranked 10th in a table of countries listed by years of life lost (YLL), an indicator of premature death. Twenty years later it had slipped to 14th in the table, with the main culprits being heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lower respiratory infections, bowel cancer, breast cancer and self harm. One of the authors of the study, Professor Kevin Fenton at government health agency Public Health England, said that the results represented a “wake up call” for the country. “In order to really make a difference in improving our nation’s health, concerted action will be required, with individuals, families, local communities, local councils, the NHS and government all taking responsibility and working together towards a healthier population”, said Professor Fenton.

British Senior Judge Warns Against Deportation of Terror Suspects

Britain’s most senior judge has warned that the United Kingdom will have to withdraw from the United Nations and the European Court of Human Rights if it deports terrorist suspects to states that carry out torture. The president of the country’s Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger, said that pulling out of the European court, a move contemplated by the UK government, would “certainly send an unfortunate number of messages”. “What I object to is that there are decisions which are sometimes simply misrepresented. An obvious example is attacking the [European] human rights convention because we can’t send back nasty terrorists because they might be tortured. Well, even if you think we should be able to be send them back there’s a UN convention going back to 1948 which says you can’t do that – which stops it on its own, unless we are going to pull out of the UN” said Lord Neuberger to the Guardian newspaper. His comments come in light of the UK’s repeated attempts at deporting Islamic cleric Abu Qatada to Jordan. The European court has ruled that there was a real risk he could be tortured if sent back, an assertion disputed by the UK government.

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