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Feb. 23, 2013 at 12:11 PM
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Party pulls out of 'deceptive' elections

CAIRO, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Mohamed ElBaradei, founder of the National Salvation Front, said Saturday Egyptians should boycott upcoming elections, calling the poll an "act of deception."

In a tweet, the leader of the Constitution Party noted that he had also called for a boycott of the 2010 election "to expose sham democracy," Ahram Online reported.

He added, "It's as if no regime was toppled."

ElBaradei was the second Egyptian political leader to call for a boycott of the April legislative elections.

On Tuesday, the Popular Current party said in a statement on its Facebook page that it "will not support a regime that has rebelled against all the goals of the January 25 Revolution, and the sacrifices of its martyrs and injured."

The party's leader, former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi, is also a founding member of the NSF.

In an interview with al-Jazeera, Mohamed El-Beltagy, the leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood, invited NSF leaders to a dialogue to reassure them about the transparency of the elections.

13 Chadian troops die in Mali fighting

N'DJAMENA, Chad, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Some 13 Chadian soldiers have been killed and five wounded in a battle in with Islamist militants in northern Mali in which 65 insurgents died, officials say.

A statement from Chadian officials said their forces also destroyed five vehicles in the clash in the Ifoghas region near Mali's border with Algeria, the Voice of America reported Friday.

Chad is part of a force of African troops who have joined with French and Malian forces to combat militants in northern Mali.

The coalition said Thursday it had recaptured the city hall in the central city of Gao, the BBC reported.

Militants linked to al-Qaida had seized the building the day before after being pushed from the city earlier in the month by French and Malian troops.

Vatican charges media spreading gossip

VATICAN CITY, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Vatican officials say media are spreading gossip about "money, sex and power" in the Catholic Church to boost profits and influence the election of a new pope.

Italian media reports this week suggested the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI is due in part to the alleged discovery of a network of gay clergy among church hierarchy, the British newspaper The Guardian said.

In a statement, the Vatican secretariat of state said, "It is deplorable that as we draw closer to the time of the beginning of the conclave [of cardinals to elect a successor]... that there be a widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories that cause serious damage to persons and institutions."

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican's top spokesman, said in a commentary on the Vatican website the media was taking advantage of the news of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI to spread "gossip" and "slander," the BBC reported Saturday.

Without directly addressing allegations of intrigue and corruption in the church, Lombardi said those making the charges had no authority to deliver such judgments.

"Whoever has money, sex and power at the forefront of their mind sees the world through these parameters and cannot see beyond, even when looking at the Church," he said.

Lombardi suggested media outlets were using "unacceptable pressure" to affect the votes of the cardinals who will decide the next pope at the conclave in March.

Two American prelates and an Irish cardinal have been urged by some groups to stay away from the conclave because of questions about their involvement in covering up sex abuse by priests, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

The number of cardinals who will attend the conclave was reduced to 116 Friday when Indonesian Cardinal Julius Riyadi Darmaatmadja said he would not go to Rome due to health concerns.

Australian river flooding 'widespread'

SYDNEY, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Emergency officials in Australia say severe flooding has killed two people left thousands isolated on the New South Wales mid-north coast.

Evacuations have been ordered for several towns, including Kempsey, Port Macquarie and Bellingen and evacuation centers have been set up at Bellingen and Urunga, as flood warnings for 14 other rivers have been issued, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported Saturday.

Rachel Hussell, from Essential Energy, said the worst-hit areas are around Coffs Harbour, Bellingen and Nambucca Heads.

"There is just so much damage to the network, especially in and around some of those areas that are hard to get to, in and around the Coffs area, that we just cant guarantee that we're going to get power on [on Saturday night]," she said. "It is very much widely spread. In saying that we do have crews working in all of those areas, as we've pulled in crews from neighboring regions."

Storms bring record snow to parts of U.S.

NEW YORK, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Wet, messy weather has brought record snowfall to many parts of the United States, and more snow is forecast for the U.S. East Coast, forecasters say.

Some 20 states in the Northeast and Deep South have been smothered in the white stuff, CNN reported Saturday.

Kansas is among the worst hit states. The town of Russell was buried under 22 inches of snow from a storm that lingered over the state for two days. Wichita measured 14.2 inches of snow, its second-highest snowfall on record, the National Weather Service said.

Kansas City International Airport got 9 inches in a single day earlier this week, breaking its records of 5.1 inches set only in 2010.

Still, the snow was welcomed by many Kansans and others on the Great Plains, who have endured three years of severe drought and the resulting crop losses.

The winter storm drawing a bead on the East Coast is the third in as many weekends, Accuweather.com reported.

As it moves into New England, falling snow Saturday night and Sunday is predicted to cause travel disruptions and power outages. Southeastern sections of the region will see colder air and stronger winds.

The storm will likely bring rain from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia and into New York City, but a foot of snow could fall from northern Connecticut into Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.

Forecasters say this weather pattern will persist into March.

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