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Monday, November 11, 2013

Philippines Declares State of Calamity

Filipino President Benigno Aquino declared a national state of calamity on Monday following the passage of Typhon Haiyan. He said the two most affected provinces, Leyte and Samar, had suffered massive destruction and loss of life. More than 10,000 people are feared to have been killed by the typhoon, with the number expected to grow as rescuers and search teams reach isolated areas. The president’s declaration is expected to speed up relief efforts for the victims of the storm, with the BBC’s Jon Donnison saying that there has yet to be an effective operation mounted to get help to those worst affected. The typhoon’s economic impact may reach a total of US$14 billion, according to a Bloomberg report, but only US$2 billion will have been insured.

Iran ‘Backed Out of Deal’, Says US

US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday that Iranian negotiators backed out of a deal on its nuclear programme during talks in Geneva on Saturday. He told reporters in Abu Dhabi that “the French signed off on it, we signed off on it” and that Iran “at that particular moment” was not ready to accept the deal. He also dismissed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s suggestion that any agreement would be a “bad deal”. “We are confident that what we are doing can actually protect Israel more effectively and provide greater security”, said Kerry. Previous reports suggested the French had backed out of the deal when all others involved, including Iran, had accepted the terms. In a separate development, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Yukiya Amano said that the agency had agreed a roadmap with Iran that should allow inspectors to visit a heavy-water plant and an uranium mine in the country, as well paving the way for the implementation of measures suggested by the agency itself.

Syrian Opposition Accepts Peace Talks

The Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the main group representing Syria’s rebels, and the Syrian government have agreed to peace talks to be convened by the US and Russia in Geneva later this year. But SNC representatives in Istanbul said its leaders would only attend the talks on the condition that the government allowed for the creation of humanitarian corridors to deliver aid to areas. They also said the SNC still wants no part for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in any transitional government. “Bashar al-Assad will have no role in the transitional period and the future of Syria”, said a statement released by the group. It follows an agreement reached on Sunday to allow supplies to reach Qudsaya, a rebel-held town near Damascus, which had been closed off for weeks.

Venezuela to Control Price of All Consumer Goods

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said on Sunday night that his government would extend price controls to all consumer goods and would also place limits on profits in an attempt to curb the country’s inflation rate. In a televised address, Maduro said the country would also step up inspections of businesses to make sure they were not practicing price gouging. “We can’t just close the businesses; the owners have to go to jail. We can’t allow our hard currency to be used to rob people through the sale of these goods”, he said. He had previously instructed the military to occupy the Daka chain of electronic goods, slashing prices of the products on sale by half, and then had to use soldiers to keep throngs from stampeding the stores. One Daka store in Valencia, the country’s largest city, was looted by the crowds.

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