World News: Lockerbie 25 years later; Africa, Syria, Iraq News; Saudi Virus; Topless Rio

By: ap
By: ap
Memorials to mark Lockerbie attack 25 years later... UN helicopter hit, downed in S. Sudan... Attacks across Iraq kill 15 people, including senior military commander... Syrian rebels seize strategic hospital in Aleppo... China lashes out at Japan

Pan Am passenger airliner blown out of the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland on Dec 21, 1988.

LONDON (AP) -- Senior British politicians and some of the families of those who died in the 1988 airliner bombing over Scotland will gather in London and Scotland for memorials marking the attack's 25th anniversary.
Scottish leader Alex Salmond will lead a wreath-laying ceremony at Dryfesdale Cemetery in the town of Lockerbie, where Pan Am 103 exploded soon after takeoff from London on the evening of Dec. 21, 1988. The terror attack, the deadliest to have taken place in Britain, killed 270.
Later Saturday, other senior Scottish officials will attend a service at London's Westminster Abbey.
In the United States, where most of the victims were from. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and other officials will speak at a ceremony at Virginia's Arlington National Cemetery.

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- Two officials have told The Associated Press that a U.N. helicopter trying to evacuate peacekeepers and civilians was fired on and sustained significant damage on Friday in the same restive South Sudan state where a U.S. helicopter was hit Saturday.
Rob McKee of Warrior Security said the U.N. helicopter was hit by small arms fire and made an emergency landing while trying to evacuate personnel from a base in Yuai in Jonglei state. A second official who insisted on anonymity because the information hasn't been released said the helicopter was abandoned and remains unable to fly. No injuries were reported.
A U.N. spokesman didn't answer a phone call or email seeking comment.
U.S. aircraft were fired on Saturday in Bor, the capital of Jonglei. Four U.S. service members were wounded.

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Attacks across Iraq today have killed 15 people, including a senior military commander who died during a raid on an al-Qaida hideout.
Police officials said army Maj. Gen Mohammed al-Karawi, a colonel and five soldiers were killed when they stormed the booby-trapped hideout in western Anbar province.
Also in western Iraq, gunmen in a speeding car opened fire at a police checkpoint in the city of Fallujah, killing four policemen.
In the north, near the city of Kirkuk, an army officer and a soldier were killed when two mortar shells struck a military camp.
And in the town of Latifiyah, 20 miles south of Baghdad, a mortar shell hit a group of Shiite pilgrims heading to the holy sites in the city of Karbala.
No one has claimed responsibility for any of the attacks.

BEIRUT (AP) -- Activists say Syrian rebels have gained control of a strategic hospital in the city of Aleppo despite days of relentless barrel-bombings of opposition-held areas in the northern city.
Two activist groups -- the Aleppo Media Center and the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights -- say the rebels captured the hospital on Friday.
Aleppo-based activist Abu al-Hassan Marea says the rebels who overran the shattered building of the Kindi hospital in Aleppo included both conservative Muslim groups and al-Qaida linked factions.
The hospital is close to Aleppo's besieged central prison, which rebels have been trying to capture for months to free their comrades.
Syrian warplanes, meanwhile, pushed on with dumping deadly barrel-bombs on opposition strongholds in Aleppo for the seventh day Saturday.

BEIJING (AP) -- China's military has lashed out at Japan's plans to increase defense spending, accusing Tokyo of raising regional tensions under the pretext of safeguarding national security.
Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said in a statement posted early Saturday on the ministry website that China resolutely opposes the five-year defense plan. Under the arrangement adopted Tuesday, Japan would purchase its first surveillance drones, as well as more jet fighters and naval destroyers, and set up an amphibious unit similar to the U.S. Marines.
China's strongly worded statement reflects the increasingly hawkish stance taken by its military amid a bitter dispute with Japan over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.
Geng accused Japan of maintaining a "Cold War mentality" that runs counter to the trends of peaceful development, cooperation and mutual benefit.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- Saudi Arabia says one more person has died from a new respiratory virus related to SARS, bringing to 56 the number of deaths in the kingdom at the center of the outbreak.
The Health Ministry said Saturday that a 73-year-old, chronically ill man had died in a Riyadh hospital. He was among 136 people who have been infected with the virus in Saudi Arabia since September last year.
The ministry also says three new cases have been detected, including two foreign women working in the kingdom's health care services and a Saudi man.
The new virus is related to SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which killed some 800 people in a global outbreak in 2003. It belongs to a family of viruses that most often causes the common cold.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) -- A government official says gunmen have attacked an anti-polio vaccination center in a tribal region in northwestern Pakistan, killing a medic on duty.
The official, Iqbal Khan, says Saturday's attack took place in the Ghundi village of the Khyber tribal region. The slain medical technician was identified as Ghilaf Khan.
The health center is run by the party of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and has been known for its vaccination drives.
Imran Khan last week launched the latest anti-polio campaign. His party later reported receiving threats from Taliban militants.
Islamic militants oppose vaccination against polio and consider such campaigns a cover for spying. They have attacked and killed several anti-polio campaign workers in recent months across Pakistan.
Pakistan is one of only three countries where the polio virus is still endemic.

MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is urging the international community to ramp up aid for the Philippines' typhoon reconstruction, saying "we must not allow this to be another forgotten crisis."
He met Sunday with key ambassadors stationed in the Philippines and urged donor countries to provide more aid in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the central Philippines on Nov. 8, killing at least 6,100 people.
The U.N. is raising $791 million for a year-long recovery plan. The Philippine government has separately launched an $8.17 billion reconstruction drive over four years.
Ban told reporters at the end of his three-day visit that the U.N. stands firmly with the Philippine efforts to improve preparedness and resilience to natural disasters.

HAVANA (AP) -- President Raul Castro has issued a stern warning to entrepreneurs pushing the boundaries of Cuba's economic reform, saying "those pressuring us to move faster are moving us toward failure."
Castro has legalized small-scale private business in nearly 200 fields since 2010 but has issued tighter regulations on businesses seeing as going too far or competing excessively with state enterprises. In recent months the government has banned the resale of imported hardware and clothes and cracked down on unlicensed private videogame and movie salons.
Castro threw his full weight behind such measures in an address to the biannual meeting of parliament Saturday, saying "every step we take must be accompanied by the establishment of a sense of order."
He blamed inadequate government controls for "creating an environment of impunity."

CAIRO (AP) -- The Arab League says it rejects a continued Israeli troop presence on the eastern border of a future state of Palestine, a proposal Palestinians say was floated by the U.S. earlier this month.
Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby said Saturday no peace deal would work with Israeli presence in a Palestinian state.
Palestinian officials said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry proposed Israel control Palestine's future border with Jordan for at least 10 years to address Israeli concerns about a potential influx of militants and weapons.
Aides to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas have criticized the plan. One aide, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the negotiations, said Saturday the Palestinians are trying to soften the proposal to shorten the span of any Israeli withdrawal.

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- A planned protest for the right to go topless on Rio de Janeiro's beaches fell flat when just a handful of women bared their chests for the movement.
More than 100 photojournalists stampeded across the golden sands of Ipanema beach when the first woman took off her bikini top on Saturday to flout Brazilian law. Just three or four other women joined in.
Brazil has an international reputation as a country of liberal sexual mores, where nudity is not only tolerated but enthusiastically embraced during Carnival parades.
But under Brazil's penal code, which dates back to the 1940s, female toplessness is considered an "obscene act," punishable by three months to a year in prison, or fines. Even critics of the law admit few are prosecuted.

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