World News: Venezuela's Chavez condition 'stabilizes'; Russia may be changing its stance on Syria; Egypt Update

By: AP
By: AP
Venezuela

In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro, center, addresses the nation on live television flanked by Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez, left, and National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello at the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012. Maduro said that Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez will face a "complex and hard" process after undergoing his fourth cancer-related operation in Cuba on Tuesday. Over the weekend, Chavez named Maduro as his chosen political heir. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office, Efrain Gonzalez)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuela's government says President Hugo Chavez's condition is becoming increasingly stable as the socialist leader recovers from a cancer-related operation in Cuba.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro says a ruling party member gave him the update on Chavez's recovery upon her return from the communist-led island.
Chavez underwent surgery Dec. 11, about two months after being elected to another six-year presidential term. It was his fourth cancer-related operation since June 2011.
Complications following the latest surgery and Chavez's silence since the procedure have thrown into doubt whether he will be able to return to Venezuela for his Jan. 10 inauguration.
The president of the National Assembly says ruling party lawmakers, who hold a majority in the legislature, won't call a new presidential election if Chavez can't return from Cuba in time for the swearing-in ceremony.
Opposition leaders argue that the constitution does not allow for a president's inauguration to be postponed.
In addition to a respiratory infection, the 58-year-old Chavez also suffered bleeding during the operation, which the government says was promptly stanched.

BEIRUT (AP) -- Russia's foreign minister says Moscow would welcome any country's offer of safe haven for Syrian President Bashar Assad, but it has no plans to make one of its own.
Sergey Lavrov's remarks Friday night are among the clearest signs yet that Russia could be preparing for a Syria without Assad, as rebel make gains on the battlefield. Over the past four weeks, fighting has reached the capital, Damascus, and rebels have captured a string of military bases.
Up to now, Russia has vetoed three Western-backed resolutions aimed at pressuring Syria's government to stop the violence that has killed more than 40,000 people over the past 21 months. While Russian leaders have given no concrete signs that stance has changed, their tone has shifted in recent days.
Lavrov says if Assad left Syria and it ended the civil war, Russia would say: "Thank God, the carnage is over!"

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Iraqi authorities say an explosion at a shop selling CDs has killed 4 people in a town northeast of the capital, Baghdad.
Police officials say a bomb, hidden in a plastic bag, exploded near the shop Saturday afternoon in the town of Qazqniyah. Eleven people were wounded in the attack, and the shop was completely destroyed.
Qazaniyah is 180 kilometers (110 miles) northeast of Baghdad.
A medic in a nearby hospital confirmed the death toll. All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to brief reporters.
Violence has ebbed in Iraq, but insurgent attacks are still frequent.

CAIRO (AP) -- Preliminary results released by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood show that the disputed constitution has received a "yes" majority of more than 70 percent in the second and final round of voting.
The results, posted on the Brotherhood's website early Sunday, show that eight of the 25 million Egyptians eligible to vote -- a turnout of about 30 percent -- cast their ballots Saturday, a turnout of about 30 percent.
The referendum was held over two days, on Dec. 15 and 22.
In the first round, about 56 percent said "yes" to the charter. The turnout then was about 32 percent.
The Brotherhood, of which Islamist President Mohammed Morsi hails, has accurately predicted election results in the past by tallying results provided by its representatives at polling centers. Official results would not be announced for several days.

CAIRO (AP) -- State television says Egypt's central bank governor has resigned.
Farouq el-Oqdah's resignation is the second such high profile move on Saturday. Earlier on the day, Vice President Mahmoud Mekki resigned, saying he realized that politics did not suit his professional background as a judge.
The brief TV report did not say why el-Oqdah quit, but it ends days of media speculations about his intentions. Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and his Prime Minister Hesham Kandil met with el-Oqdah earlier this week in what media reports said was an attempt to dissuade him from leaving.
His departure comes at a time when Egypt's pound has been losing value against the U.S. dollar and the postponement of a deal with the IMF for a much needed loan of $4.8 billion.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) -- Pakistani officials say a suicide bomber has killed nine people including a provincial government official at a political rally held by a party that has opposed the Taliban.
The rally in Peshawar, in northwestern Pakistan, was held by the Awami National Party, whose members have been repeatedly targeted by the Taliban.
Officials say the second most senior member of the provincial Cabinet was among the dead. He was leaving the rally after delivering the keynote speech when the attack occurred. Over 20 others were wounded by the blast.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the bombing in a statement, reiterating the United Nations' support for Pakistani efforts "to combat the scourge of terrorism."
One party official says "Terrorism has engulfed our whole society." As he puts it, "They are targeting our bases, our mosques, our bazars, public meetings and our security checkpoints."

GIMPO, South Korea (AP) -- South Koreans have lit a Christmas tree-shaped tower near the tense border with North Korea for the first time in two years following North Korea's rocket launch.
Seoul's Defense Ministry said Sunday that it allowed Christian groups to light the massive steel tower Saturday. It's to stay lit until Jan. 2.
Pyongyang views the tower as propaganda warfare, though it has not yet responded to this year's lighting.
The lighting came 10 days after North Korea placed a satellite into orbit aboard a long-range rocket. South Korea and the U.S. say the launch was a test of banned missile technology.
The tree wasn't lit last year after officials asked Christians to refrain from doing so to avoid tension following the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il last December.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for the development of more powerful rockets after last week's successful launch of a satellite into space.
The North's official media said Saturday that Kim made the call at a banquet for rocket scientists Friday in Pyongyang.
The Dec. 12 launch of a long-range rocket put the country's first satellite in orbit. The United States, South Korea and others have condemned the launch as a test of ballistic missile technology banned under U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Kim had already called for sending more scientific satellites into space on the day of the launch. But his speech on Friday marks the first time he is explicitly calling for the advancement of his country's long-range rocket program.


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