World News: Iran warns Turkey; Egyptian Women Barred from Voting?; Afghanistan wants earlier US Withdrawal

By: AP
By: AP

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- A top Iranian military commander has warned Turkey against stationing NATO anti-missile systems on its territory, saying such a move risks war with Syria.
Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, who is army chief of staff, is urging Turkey, U.S. and Europeans to dismantle the Patriot missile defense system before a war breaks out. He says the system was stationed in Turkey to protect Israel from Iranian missiles attacks and inhibit Russian defense of Syria.
Firouzabadi's remarks were reported by state TV Saturday.
On Friday, the Pentagon announced it will send two batteries of Patriot missiles and 400 troops to Turkey as part of a larger NATO force to protect Turkish territory from potential Syrian missile attacks.

BEIRUT (AP) -- Syria's foreign minister has blamed the suffering of his country's people on U.S. and European sanctions imposed on his country.
Walid al-Moallem has called on the United Nations to condemn these sanctions and work toward lifting them.
Moallem made his comments Saturday during a meeting in the capital, Damascus, with U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos who is on a one-day visit to Syria.
The US and EU have imposed a wave of sanctions to punish President Bashar Assad's regime for its crackdown against protesters calling for democratic reforms. The protests have morphed into a civil war that has left more than 40,000 dead.
The current sanctions include a freeze on the assets of Assad and other Syrian government leaders, along with an embargo on the oil and arms trades.

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (AP) -- Some 1,500 Egyptian women blocked a main road in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, claiming a judge prevented them from voting on the draft constitution because they weren't veiled.
The women lined up on Saturday night in front of cars in the city's Sedi Gaber district, chanting "down with the Muslim Brotherhood rule."
Amira Abdel-Azem, a hospital manager, said judge supervising the polling station was only allowing women wearing a niqab, a veil that covers everything but the eyes, to cast ballots. It was not possible to immediately verify her account.
Alexandria is a stronghold of ultraconservative Islamists known as Salafis but has seen tensions rise over the disputed charter.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai says the U.S. and NATO troops transferring security to Afghan forces should leave Afghan villages as soon as possible.
Karzai spoke Saturday on the opening day of a conference to develop Afghanistan's foreign policy strategy for the next three years.
He says international forces will end their combat mission at the end of 2014. But he says that before that -- in 2013 -- Afghan forces will take charge of securing the entire nation.
Karzai says the sooner that transition can be completed, the better.
He says he wants the international troops to leave Afghan villages, draw back to their bases and slowly withdraw from there.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- U.S. commanders are offering glowing reviews of their 2012 Afghanistan war campaign. And the upbeat assessments could be interpreted as leeway for President Barack Obama to order another round of troop withdrawals next summer.
Obama faces a tension between calls by Democrats and even some Republicans to wind down the war more quickly and the military's desire to avoid a too-fast pullout that might squander hard-won sacrifices.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has not yet recommended to Obama a specific pace of withdrawals for 2013. But during the Pentagon chief's two-day visit to the war zone last week, commanders suggested that things are going better than is generally believed by an American public weary of war after 11 years.

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) -- North Korea's top leadership is calling the successful launch of a satellite proof that Kim Jong Un has the strength to lead the country one year after his father's death.
A solemn Kim Jong Un joined top political, government and military officials Sunday in a national memorial service at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium on the eve of the anniversary of Kim Jong Il's death.
The Associated Press was among a handful of foreign and local journalists allowed to cover the closed meeting, which marked the start of events marking Kim's death. Armed soldiers ringed the streets outside.
Kim Jong Il died on Dec. 17, 2011. North Korea sent a long-range rocket into space in his honor Wednesday, defying international warnings that the launch would be considered a banned missile test.

SUVA, Fiji (AP) -- The Pacific island nation of Fiji is bracing for a cyclone that earlier ripped through Samoa, leaving at least three people dead, eight missing and thousands homeless.
Fijian authorities said Sunday that nearly 400 people on the island of Vanua Levu had evacuated to emergency shelters. Cyclone Evan is expected to hit Sunday night in northern Fiji, likely missing the more populous south, including the capital, Suva.
The storm caused widespread destruction in Samoa on Thursday. The Samoa Observer newspaper says up to 4,000 people were left homeless.
On Sunday, New Zealand authorities were using a plane to search for eight Samoan fishermen who went missing in the storm. Authorities say the men were in three boats, each about 9 meters (30 feet) long and with outboard motors.

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) -- Myanmar's government formally apologized Saturday to the country's Buddhist monks for its recent crackdown on protesters at a copper mine that injured more than 100 of their monastic colleagues.
President's Office Minister Hla Tun led other officials in apologizing to senior and injured monks in the central city of Mandalay.
Police used water cannons, tear gas and smoke bombs on Nov. 29 to break up an 11-day occupation of the Letpadaung mine project in northwestern Myanmar, a joint venture between a military-owned holding company and a Chinese company. Protesters want the project halted, saying it is causing environmental, social and health problems.
The monks had been holding protests to demand an apology for the violence, with hundreds marching peacefully this past Wednesday in Yangon and Mandalay, the country's two biggest cities, along with Monywa, the town closest to the mine, and at least six other towns.
Shin Wirathu, one of the monks leading the protests, said Saturday's action satisfied their demands for a formal apology. The monks had rejected previous apologies by officials as inadequate and directed at the wrong people. Officials in attendance Saturday included Health Minister Pe Thet Khin, Police Chief Kyaw Kyaw Tun and Sagaing Region Chief minister Thar Aye.
"We are now satisfied as they made the apology publicly and legally," said Shin Wirathu "And it's pleasing that the ones who had the main responsibility for the crackdown apologized to the injured monks. We acknowledge it as a historic day but it's a matter of forgive, not forget."
He added that the officials also promised not to let anything like the crackdown happen again.
According to Shin Wirathu, 34 injured monks and 3 lay people are still at hospitals in Mandalay, and one person was sent to Thailand for medical treatment.
Most of those hurt suffered burns that protesters said were caused by incendiary devices hurled by police.
The crackdown was reminiscent of those the country faced under military rule, which formally ended when an elected government took power last year. It stirred particular anger because of the violence against monks, who are held in high regard in this reverent Buddhist country.
The heavy-handed action indicated the government is still unsure where to draw the line on public protests, even though elected President Thein Sein's government has been hailed for releasing hundreds of political prisoners and for implementing laws allowing public demonstrations and labor strikes.

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