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World News: Canadian, Who Hid American Hostages in 1979-80 Iran, Dies; China 'Freezes'

By: AP
By: AP

TORONTO (AP) -- John Sheardown, a former Canadian diplomat who hid fugitive American Embassy staffers during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, has died. He was 88.
His wife Zena said Saturday that Sheardown passed away in an Ottawa hospital on Dec. 30. She says he had been treated for Alzheimer's disease for the past four years but also suffered from other ailments.
Sheardown played a key role in the events depicted in Ben Affleck's Oscar-contender film "Argo," although he was not portrayed in the film because of time constraints.
Sheardown, the second-ranking diplomat in the Canadian Embassy in Tehran, housed four American Embassy employees in his home for more than 2 1/2 months during the hostage crisis. Two other American diplomats hid in the home of the Canadian ambassador, Ken Taylor, until their rescue by a fake film crew.

BEIJING (AP) -- China Meteorological Administration says the country's average temperature has hit the lowest in 28 years this winter, as snow and ice throughout China have closed highways, canceled flights and stranded travelers.
The figures released by the administration on Friday show the national average was -3.8 degrees Celsius (25 degrees Fahrenheit) since late November.
The average temperature in northeast China dipped to -15.3 degrees C (4.5 degrees F), the coldest in 43 years, and dropped to a 42-year low of -7.4 degrees C (18.7 degrees F) in northern China.

ISLAMABAD (AP) -- The Pakistani military is accusing forces from neighboring India of crossing the boundary between the two sides' forces in Kashmir and attacking a Pakistani border post, killing a soldier.
The military's public relations office said in a statement Sunday that another Pakistani soldier was critically wounded in the incident early Sunday.
They said troops are still exchanging gunfire in the area.
They said the raid crossed the "line of control" dividing the Indian and Pakistani sides of Kashmir, a flashpoint of violence between these two neighbors for decades.
Both claim the region as their own.
A 2003 cease-fire ended the most recent round of fighting.
Each side occasionally accuses the other of violating it by lobbing mortars or shooting across the LOC, but accusations of cross-border raids are rare.

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) -- A team led by a British aviation enthusiast has arrived in Myanmar to begin the first of several digs they hope will unearth dozens of rare British fighter planes said to have been buried in the Southeast Asian country at the end of World War II.
The 21-member team led by farmer and businessman David Cundall will soon start excavations to find several stashes of Spitfires believed to be under the ground near the airport in the main city, Yangon.
The Spitfire remains Britain's most famous combat aircraft. Its reputation was cemented during the Battle of Britain when the fast-moving single-seater aircraft helped beat back waves of German bombers.
Cundall said Sunday the initial project would take about four to six weeks to complete.

BEIRUT (AP) -- Syria's state run news agency says President Bashar Assad will deliver a speech on Sunday in a rare address to the nation.
SANA said Saturday that Assad will speak about the latest developments in Syria. It did not provide more details.
The speech would be the first by the embattled leader in months, and comes amid intense fighting between government troops and rebels on the outskirts of Damascus.
Assad has rarely spoken in public since the uprising against him began in March 2011.

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- Indonesia's state-managed news agency is reporting that anti-terrorism police have shot and killed five suspected Islamist militants in eastern Indonesia.
The raids on Friday night and Saturday morning on Sumbawa followed the killings of two suspected militants earlier Friday on Sulawesi island, also in the east of the country.
Antara reported that the country's elite anti-terror squad carried out the operations and that they were linked to the raid in Makassar.
Police were not immediately available for comment.
Indonesia was hit by four major al-Qaida-linked bombings between 2002 and 2009, but a sustained police crackdown is thought to have reduced the threat significantly.
However, small groups of local terrorists have carried out several attacks on police around the country over the last two years.

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) -- An Algerian newspaper says the right-hand man to the head of al-Qaida's North African branch was one of seven insurgents killed by the army last week.
El Watan reported Saturday that the New Year's Day operation killed Izza Rezki, the finance chief for Abdelmalek Droukdel, the head of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. The paper cited anonymous security sources.
Algerian authorities did not comment the report.
The Algerian Defense Ministry announced the operation Tuesday but only identified those killed as members of a terrorist group.
Such government statements are rare in Algeria's long battle with AQIM, underscoring the importance of the operation. AQIM is headquartered in Algeria, but noted mainly for its reach in Africa's Sahel region with kidnappings of Westerners and its takeover of parts of northern Mali.

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) -- Northern Ireland police used water cannons to fend off brick-hurling protesters in Belfast on Saturday as violent demonstrations over flying the British flag stretched into a third straight day.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland said it was investigating reports that a number of shots were fired at police lines. A 38-year-man has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, police said.
More than 1,000 demonstrators marched on Belfast's city hall earlier Saturday afternoon amid a heavy police presence. While the rally passed largely without incident, police then came under attack from a mob of more than 100 people hurling bricks and fireworks. Two men were arrested, police said.
Protesters have been out in force -- with sometimes violent results -- since a Dec. 3 decision by Belfast City Council to stop flying the British flag year-round.
Such issues of symbolism frequently inflame sectarian passions in Northern Ireland, where Protestants mainly want to stay in the United Kingdom and Catholics want to unite with the Republic of Ireland.
Many Protestants want the council to reverse its decision about the flag, and dozens of police have been injured in ensuing demonstrations.
Saturday's flare-up followed a tense Friday night in Belfast when nine police officers were injured and 18 rioters arrested during rioting. Police said that more than 30 petrol bombs were thrown at officers, along with ball bearings, fireworks and bricks as they responded to clashes in Protestant sections of the city.
Similar clashes on Thursday saw 10 police injured in east Belfast.
The controversy has also seen death threats made against politicians.

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) -- A security official in the Libyan city of Benghazi says police are searching for a senior official who was abducted while investigating the recent assassination of the city's police chief.
The official said Saturday that Lt. Col. Abdel-Salam al-Mahdawi was abducted from a Benghazi street late Wednesday when assailants pulled him from a vehicle. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.
Al-Mahdawi heads Benghazi's criminal investigations unit tasked with looking into the November killing of National Security chief Col. Farag el-Dersi in the city.
Security has deteriorated over the past year in Benghazi, the birthplace of the revolt that unseated longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi. An attack in September on the U.S. consulate there killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.


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