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Dec. 7, 2012 at 8:17 AM
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7.3-magnitude quake hits northeast Japan

TOKYO, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- A 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck Friday off the coast of northeastern Japan and a tsunami warning was issued for Miyagi prefecture, officials said.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage but authorities said 3-foot waves rolled ashore in Miyagi -- in the same region where a massive earthquake and tsunami killed thousands of people last year.

The new quake shook buildings in Tokyo nearly 300 miles away and some roads were closed and rail service suspended, CNN reported.

Kyodo News reported the Japan Meteorological Agency issued the tsunami warning for the Miyagi region after the quake struck after 5 p.m.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no threat to the wider Pacific Ocean.

The earthquake hit off the east coast of Honshu, Japan's largest island where Tokyo is located, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The quake, at a depth of 22.3 miles, was reported 152 miles southeast of Kamaishi and 287 miles east-northeast of Tokyo, the USGS said.

Kyodo News reported no abnormalities were detected at nuclear plants, including those in Fukushima prefecture where a 9-magnitude earthquake followed by a gigantic tsunami in March 2011 killed more than 15,000 people and crippled the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant.

The Miyagi region suffered heavy damage in the 2011 quake.

Activists say Damascus suburbs bombed

DAMASCUS, Syria, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- The Syrian military bombed two suburbs of Damascus Friday and troops massed on the city's outskirts, activists said.

The army fired rockets at Daraya and Moadamiah, suburbs of the capital city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The group said it feared government troops were massing for a ground assault, Voice of America reported.

About 400 U.S. and Dutch NATO troops were massed on Turkey's Syrian border amid fears besieged President Bashar Assad was poised to use chemical weapons.

The soldiers were readying Patriot missiles three days after NATO agreed to deploy the MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile system in Turkey. Ankara had requested the installations as a defense against a Syrian missile attack, possibly with chemical weapons.

"Nobody knows what such a regime is capable of and that is why we are acting protectively here," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said of NATO's move.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday the latest intelligence reports heightened fears Assad would use chemical weapons on the rebels trying to oust him.

"The intelligence that we have raises serious concerns that this is being considered," he said.

Foes defy Morsi's threat of punishment

CAIRO, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Egyptian anti-government protesters gathered at the presidential palace Friday, undeterred by President Mohamed Morsi's threat of punishment, observers said.

Protesters object to recent decisions by Morsi they consider "dictatorial," Ahram Online said.

Morsi has refused to step back from a controversial decree he issued, or his nation's pending constitutional referendum, saying he respected peaceful opposition but won't put up with violence, CNN reported.

On Thursday, in a warning to "those who oppose me," Morsi, a member of the once-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, condemned people involved in the protests and promised they would be held accountable.

"[They] will not escape punishment," he said in a televised speech.

Activists camped in Cairo's Tahrir Square chanted "Leave! Leave! Leave!" as Morsi talked.

Morsi recently decreed his decisions were not subject to judicial review.

The opposition argues that a draft constitution, written by the country's Islamist-led Parliament, adversely affects civil liberties. It is scheduled for a popular vote Dec. 15.

Morsi must roll back his edict and postpone the referendum on the constitution because it doesn't adequately represent or protect all Egyptians and was rushed through by Islamist lawmakers, opponents say.

Moscow denies plans to 're-Sovietize'

DUBLIN, Ireland, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Moscow denied it is seeking to "re-Sovietize" Eastern Europe and Central Asia, saying U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's assertion was totally misguided.

Clinton's comments reflected "a completely wrong understanding" of Russian integration efforts among its neighbors, Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's press secretary, was quoted by the Financial Times as saying.

"What we see on the territory of the ex-Soviet Union is a new type of integration, based only on economic integration," he said. "Any other type of integration is totally impossible in today's world."

Clinton told civil society advocates on the sidelines of an international human rights conference at Ireland's Dublin City University Tuesday Washington was trying to stop Russia from creating a new version of the Soviet Union under the guise of economic integration.

"There is a move to re-Sovietize the region," she said. "It's not going to be called that. It's going to be called a Customs Union, it will be called Eurasian Union and all of that.

"But let's make no mistake about it. We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it," she said hours before meeting with her Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, to discuss the escalating Syrian crisis.

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