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April 2, 2013 at 12:00 PM   |   0 comments

Calm urged as N. Korea to restart reactor

PYONGYANG, North Korea, April 2 (UPI) -- U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he wants to avoid a path "nobody should want to follow" after North Korea said it would restart a nuclear reactor.

North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Tuesday the country's atomic energy department would "readjust and restart all the nuclear facilities" at its main nuclear complex in Yongbyon.

North Korea's announcement was followed by a plea for calm from Ban, a South Korean, who said he was "deeply troubled," CNN reported.

"The current crisis has already gone too far," he said in a statement. "Nuclear threats are not a game. Aggressive rhetoric and military posturing only result in counter-actions, and fuel fear and instability."

In calling for calm, Ban said he didn't want the situation to worsen by a lack of communication that "could lead down a path that nobody should want to follow."

Dialogue and negotiations are "the only way to resolve the current crisis," Ban said.

The Yongbyon plant includes a uranium enrichment facility and a reactor that were shuttered and disabled under a 2007 agreement during talks among North Korea, the United States and four other nations.

The state-run news agency said work on the facility would begin "without delay" but offered no time table.

Tuesday's announcement is part of a new strategy of pushing economic construction and building a nuclear armed force announced Sunday by leader Kim Jong Un, CNN said.


Prisoner death prompts clashes in Hebron

BETHLEHEM, West Bank, April 2 (UPI) -- Palestinians clashed with Israeli security forces in Hebron Tuesday following the death of a 64-year-old Palestinian prisoner, officials said.

Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, who was serving a life sentence in an Israeli prison, died of throat cancer at a hospital in Be'er Sheva prompting Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails to begin a three-day hunger strike, Haaretz reported.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas blamed Israel for Abu Hamdiyeh's death.

"The Israeli refusal to address our appeals to release Abu Hamdiyeh led to a deterioration in his condition," Abbas said. "We turned to many countries and to the international community to act on behalf of the Palestinian prisoners but Israel did not sway from its position."

Palestinian Authority prisons minister Issa Qaraqe said Abu Hamdiyeh's throat cancer spread to his spinal cord because his condition was neglected, the Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported.

Qaraqe accused Israeli prison authorities of medically neglecting Abu Hamdiyeh for several years and called for an investigation by an international committee.

Abu Hamdiyeh, a Fatah leader from Hebron, was the 207th Palestinian to die in Israeli custody.


Kabul: New border post 'provocative'

KABUL, Afghanistan, April 2 (UPI) -- Pakistan's construction of a border security post has sparked concern from Afghan officials, who called the action "provocative and unacceptable."

The criticism by Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin occurred after Kabul accused Islamabad of cross-border shelling and trying to undermine peace talks with the Taliban, Dawn News reported Tuesday.

In a meeting with Pakistan ambassador Mohammad Sadiq, Ludin said building of the military check post in the border province of Nangarhar was 'against all accepted international norms, provocative and unacceptable to the Afghan government."

Pakistan rejected Afghanistan's concerns. The work was "routine renovation" of an "old post," said Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry, a spokesman for the foreign office.

Both countries have signed agreements to tell each other of any new construction close to border areas. The Pakistan foreign ministry said in a statement Kabul had been informed of work on the post, but Afghanistan said border police reported the "unilateral" work had begun "a while ago."

Ludin also complained about rocket and artillery attacks in Afghanistan from Pakistan.

Pakistan responded Tuesday, saying "no rocket or artillery shells have been fired by Pakistan Army in recent days."

In the past month, Afghanistan has repeatedly accused Pakistan of trying to hinder progress in reaching a peace agreement with the Afghan Taliban.

Last week, Ludin accused Pakistan of "complacency" and of "changing the goal post every time we reach an understanding."


Security tightened for Italian prosecutor

PALERMO, Italy, April 2 (UPI) -- Security for an Italian prosecutor has been beefed up after officials said they learned of a plot by the reputed head of the Italian mafia to kill him.

Details of the alleged plot by Messina Denaro, one of the world's 10 most wanted men, on the prosecutor, Nino Di Matteo of Palermo, were revealed in letters to prosecutors a few days ago, the Italian news agency ANSA reported Tuesday.

Di Matteo is leading an investigation of police allegedly involved in the deaths of two Italian magistrates in 1992.

Denaro became the head of the Cosa Nostra in 2006 after the arrest of Bernardo Provenzano. Denaro has been a fugitive since 1993.

Italian police recently claimed to have severely damaged Denaro's power, instituting a "scorched earth" policy in which they seized millions of euros in assets and arrested a large number of his alleged associates.

Last year, Italy's top Mafia prosecutor, Pietro Grasso, claimed efforts against the criminal syndicate had been so successful "the Mafia effectively no longer has a No. 1."


N.Y. party leaders nabbed corruption case

NEW YORK, April 2 (UPI) -- A New York state senator and New York City Councilman were arrested Tuesday, accused of trying to rig this year's New York mayoral race, officials said.

State Sen. Malcolm Smith, D-New York, a contractor and real estate developer who became the state Senate's first black president, and City Councilman Daniel J. Halloran III were among those arrested in the corruption case that cut across political lines, The New York Times reported.

Other political leaders arrested included GOP county-level leaders in Queens and the Bronx, as well as the mayor Spring Valley in Rockland County and her deputy, a criminal complaint indicated.

"Elected officials are called public servants because they are supposed to serve the people. Public service is not supposed to be a shortcut to self-enrichment," FBI New York Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos said in a statement. "People in New York, in Spring Valley -- in any city or town in this country -- rightly expect their elected or appointed representatives to hold themselves to a higher standard. At the very least, public officials should obey the law."

"As alleged, these defendants did not obey the law; they broke the law and the public trust," Venizelos said. "There is a price to pay for that kind of betrayal."

The criminal complaint was unsealed Tuesday. Smith, Halloran and the others were to appear Tuesday before a U.S. magistrate judge in White Plains, N.Y.

The complaint indicated Smith agreed with a cooperating witness and an undercover FBI agent, posing as a rich real estate developer, to pay off GOP county committees leaders in New York's five boroughs to get certificates authorizing him to run for mayor as a Republican even though he was a registered Democrat.

The undercover agent and the cooperating witness acted as intermediaries between the senator and Halloran, the complaint said.

The complaint outlined the scheme borne from clandestine meetings, the Times said. The meetings were recorded by the undercover agent or the cooperating witness and primarily involved Smith or Halloran, the undercover agent and the witness.

Smith's lawyer, Gerald Shargel, said his client denied the claims, the Times said.

"Malcolm Smith is a dedicated and highly respected public servant and he steadfastly denies these charges," Shargel said.


Ga. city votes to require gun possession

NELSON, Ga., April 2 (UPI) -- The Nelson, Ga., City Council voted to pass a ordinance requiring all heads of household to own a firearm and ammunition, officials said.

Police Chief Heath Mitchell -- the city's lone police officer -- approves of the new firearms ordinance, which he said he hopes protects residents from criminal outsiders.

"They're going to think twice before they come into Nelson and cause harm or break and entering, commit a theft, any type of criminal activity. I know I would if I was a bad guy," Mitchell said.

The Family Protection Ordinance, passed Monday, requires all heads of households to own a gun, except for people with physical or mental disabilities, those who oppose guns on religious grounds, and convicted felons, WGCL-TV, Atlanta, reported Tuesday.

"If anything should happen that they would need to use a firearm, [now] they are backed up by their government, their city government," said Councilwoman Edith Portillo.

Resident Charles Jones said he doesn't approve of the new law.

"I figured I would be stupid to dive into a trouble area. Therefore I don't need a weapon," he said.

The city council said it takes 10 days for the ordinance to become a law, though they don't plan on checking door to door to make sure residents comply.

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