New multiple-warhead Russian missiles that are nuclear-capable will be deployed in December, reports said Wednesday. The 1991 START-1 treaty with the US on arms limitation expires Dec. 5, and American plans to build a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic have angered the Kremlin. President Dmitry Medvedev said earlier this week that Russia "must" upgrade its defenses. A senior defense source also said Russia is considering whether to deliver to Iran sophisticated air defense systems that the latter signed a contract to buy two years ago. Supplying such systems would alter the military balance in the Middle East and make a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, by the US or Israel, more difficult.
Despite admitted food shortages, North Korea's communist regime cut off aid shipments from the US, ordering five humanitarian organizations to leave the country by month's end. The move heightens tensions further at a time when the North is two weeks away from a scheduled rocket launch that the US suspects may be a disguised test of its longest-range ballistic missile. Analysts suggested that the order could be an attempt by leader Kim Jong Il, who reportedly experienced a stroke last summer, to demonstrate that he's still in full command.
New leader Andry Rajoelina of Madagascar basked in a ruling by the Supreme Court that endorses his takeover of the government. He planned to be sworn in as president Saturday. He said he didn't know the whereabouts of his predecessor, Marc Ravalomanana, and denied that he is seeking the latter's arrest. It also wasn't clear how much force may have been used to oust Ravalomanana Tuesday. Witnesses said they saw broken furniture and windows in his office and a crowbar lodged in a door.
Turnout was heavy Wednesday as voters in Azerbaijan considered whether to give President Ilham Aliyev their OK to rule for life. Despite opposition calls for a boycott, a majority "yes" vote on the national referendum appeared all but certain. At least 25 percent of those eligible must vote for the result to count. Aliyev has held power in the oil-rich, mainly Muslim republic since October 2003, when he succeeded his seriously ill father.
For the first time since Tony Blair became prime minister of Britain in 1997, unemployment has risen to more than 2 million – or 6.5 percent of the population – reports said Wednesday. Some economists have predicted that the jobless rate will top 3 million as the recession deepens. The Trades Union Congress said earlier this week that, on average, 10 people are applying for every posted job opening in Britain.
Financially troubled Chrysler Corp. said it's preparing plans to pull out of Canada if union negotiators continue to reject a larger cut in labor costs than was won by General Motors last week. Informed sources said the two sides are "not even in the same neighborhood" in assessing the costs. Chrysler, which employs 9,400 workers in Canada, reportedly is seeking a $19-an-hour cut to put it on a competitive footing with Toyota and Honda assembly plants. Union members OK'd a $7.25-an-hour scaleback for GM.
Coca-Cola Corp. lost a $2.5 billion bid to buy a Chinese rival Wednesday even though the latter's shareholders had endorsed the sale as a way to upgrade product development and marketing. The takeover of Huiyuan Juice Group would have been the largest yet in China by a foreign company. But the Commerce Ministry disallowed it on grounds that it would have been "negative for competition." Analysts suggested the rejection also might have been a form of payback for US opposition when a Chinese oil company tried unsuccessfully to buy Unocal Corp. of California in 2005.