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Feb. 18, 2013 at 8:15 AM
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U.N. report: Syrian violence escalating

GENEVA, Switzerland, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- U.N. investigators said Monday the government of Syria should be referred to an International Criminal Court to halt increasing violence against civilians.

A group of four investigators led by Paulo Pinheiro of Brazil issued a 121-page report to the Human Rights Council saying conditions for civilians in Syria are deteriorating rapidly, "aggravated by increased sectarianism."

Investigators said they found credible evidence of human rights abuses and war crimes committed by both the Bashar Assad-led government and opposition forces, The New York Times reported

"Indiscriminate and widespread shelling, the regular bombardment of cities, mass killing, indiscriminate firing on civilian targets, firing on civilian gatherings and a protracted campaign of shelling and sniping on civilian areas have characterized the conduct of the government," the report said.

The panel compiled a list of names of leaders who may be responsible for carrying out the abuses, and called for stronger action by the international community to act on their findings.

Referral to the International Criminal Court can only come from the U.N. Security Council. Russia and China have vetoed the move, saying it's prejudicial to the survival of the Assad government, the Times reported.

Correa dedicates win to Venezuela's Chavez

QUITO, Ecuador, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa who swept to re-election with 57 percent of the vote, dedicated his victory to ailing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

"Let us take the opportunity to dedicate this victory to that great Latin American leader who changed Venezuela, and wish him a speedy recovery and the best future for his country," Correa told a news conference after declaring victory Sunday.

Guillermo Lasso, a banker, the closest of Correa's seven opponents, had 23.3 percent.

"Nobody can stop this revolution," Correa told thousands of supporters from the balcony of the presidential palace in Quito.

Correa mounted a "socialist revolution" similar to that of Chavez in Venezuela when he first took power in 2007.

"The colonial powers are not in charge anymore. You can be sure that in this revolution it's Ecuadoreans who are in charge," Correa told the cheering crowd Sunday night.

2 GOP Hagel foes end nomination resistance

WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Two top Senate Republican said they will no longer hold up Senate confirmation for defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel even though they find him unsuitable.

"No, I don't believe he is qualified," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told NBC's "Meet the Press." "But I don't believe that we should hold up his nomination any further because I think it's a reasonable amount of time to have questions answered."

McCain said the Senate will vote on Hagel's nomination when it returns from recess, "and I am confident that Senator Hagel will probably have the votes necessary to be confirmed."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. -- who along with McCain spearheaded a move to block Hagel and was among a majority of Senate Republicans who backed a filibuster Thursday when Hagel's nomination came to a vote -- told "Fox News Sunday" he would stop opposing Hagel because the former GOP senator from Nebraska disavowed comments he allegedly made in 2007.

Hagel allegedly said during a talk at New Jersey's Rutgers University the U.S. State Department was an adjunct of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

"I got a letter back from Senator Hagel in response to my question, 'Did you say that, and do you believe that?' And the letter says he did not recall saying that," Graham told the program. "He disavowed that statement."

"So I'll just take him at his word unless something new comes along," Graham said.

Pistorius races canceled; new allegations

PRETORIA, South Africa, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Accused killer Oscar Pistorius has canceled "all future races" as a published report said a bloodied cricket bat was found in the South African sprinter's home.

"I have decided that following these tragic events that we have no option but to cancel all future races that Oscar Pistorius had been contracted to compete in," agent Peet van Zyl said in a statement late Sunday night.

Pistorius, nicknamed "Blade Runner" because of his prosthetic legs, has contracts to race in Australia, Brazil, Britain and the United States, van Zyl said.

Canceling will let Pistorius "concentrate on the upcoming legal proceedings," he said.

Sponsors and partners have agreed to maintain their contractual commitments as the legal process continues, he said.

Pistorius, 26, denies killing model and law school graduate Reeva Steenkamp, 29, in his house in an upscale gated community on the outskirts of Pretoria, South Africa's administrative capital. His family insists her death Thursday was a tragic accident.

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