Iranian-built surveillance drones have a range of more than 600 miles – enough to spy on Israel – a senior defense official said. The claim could not be verified independently, but, if true, would appear to back up the announcement earlier this week that the Islamic republic has strengthened its air defense capabilities. It also is a sign that Iran takes seriously Israeli threats to strike at its nuclear sites, analysts said.
High-profile Egyptian opposition leader Ayman Nour was freed "on health grounds" Wednesday after almost 3-1/2 years in prison. Nour, who challenged incumbent Hosni Mubarak in the 2005 presidential election, was found guilty of fraud, although he won only 8 percent of the vote. The case attracted international attention, and was seen as a sign that Mubarak was alarmed at the potential of Nour's fledgling Ghad Party. Nour vowed to return to active politics, reports said.
By unanimous vote, policymakers at the Bank of England agreed to ask the government for permission to print more money as a way of boosting the sagging economy. The decision was made Feb. 5 but came to light Wednesday as minutes of their meeting were released. They showed that eight of the nine members agreed to cut borrowing rates to 1 percent; the holdout sought a cut to 0.5 percent. The central bank has lowered interest rates five times since October. Printing new money is necessary, the minutes said, because cutting interest rates further likely "could not inject sufficient stimulus" to the economy.
Saying the plight of thousands of trapped civilians in Sri Lanka's war zone "is a serious source of concern to us," Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee offered help Wednesday to "facilitate" their evacuation. He didn't specify how India would assist, however, and he blamed Tamil separatist rebels for having "done much damage" to their own community. As he spoke, Sri Lanka's government again rejected all calls for a truce with the rebels.
The armed forces of Madagascar don't expect to seize power but are ready to "fulfill our duties" if the nation's power struggle isn't resolved soon, commanders said. They also warned that their ranks were united and "any attempt to divide [us]" would fail. Analysts said their remarks likely will be seen as support for embattled President Marc Ravalomanana rather than for opposition leader Andry Rajoelina. Rajoelina has called for the Army to back him instead.
Two more outbreaks of apparent left-wing violence shook Athens as gunmen sprayed a TV station with bullets and police destroyed a car bomb after it failed to explode outside the Greek headquarters of Citibank. No one was hurt, and there were no immediate claims of responsibility. Prior to the incidents, there had been only sporadic trouble in Athens since the riots that followed the death of a teenager at police hands Dec. 6.
Bridges connecting Mexican border cities to Texas were blocked for hours Tuesday by hundreds of people demanding that Army units leave their midst. The protests were yet another challenge to President Felipe Calderón's struggles to quell drug trafficking. Protesters complained that violence has only increased since the troops arrived and accused soldiers of being abusive and of stealing from them.
Violence worsened on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe Tuesday as a union representative was killed and at least six policemen were hurt. Protesters against the rising cost of living also looted a shopping center, and a local official complained that "the streets have been in the hands of young people completely out of control." The dead man reportedly was hit by gunfire as he stopped at a roadblock erected by the protesters.