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World News: China Not Pleased with N Korea; Syrian Chemicals; Iraq, Egypt, Afghan Updates; Iran Irked with Pakistan

By: ap
By: ap
FILE - In this Feb. 16, 2012 file photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walks past his uncle Jang Song Thaek, left, after reviewing a parade of thousands of soldiers and commemorating the 70th birthday of the late Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korean state media say Kim Jong Un's uncle has been executed, calling the leader's former mentor

FILE - In this Feb. 16, 2012 file photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walks past his uncle Jang Song Thaek, left, after reviewing a parade of thousands of soldiers and commemorating the 70th birthday of the late Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korean state media say Kim Jong Un's uncle has been executed, calling the leader's former mentor "worse than a dog." The announcement on Thursday evening, Dec. 12, 2013, comes days after Pyongyang announced that Jang Song Thaek had been removed from all his posts because of allegations of corruption, drug use, gambling, womanizing and generally leading a "dissolute and depraved life." (AP Photo/Kyodo News, File) JAPAN OUT, CREDIT MANDATORY

BEIJING (AP) -- The stunning execution of Kim Jong Un's powerful uncle strips China of its most important link to North Korea's leadership. It also deepens concerns over how the unruly neighbor will proceed on Beijing's key issues of nuclear disarmament and economic reform.
Facing heightened uncertainty, Beijing will likely avoid for now any response that might boost panic or paranoia in Pyongyang, where China is both valued and resented as a key backer of Kim's regime.
According to Jingdong Yuan, an expert on northeast Asian security at the University of Sydney, China is likely dusting off contingency plans for instability or even a regime collapse that could see thousands of refugees swarming across its borders, put the North's nuclear facilities at risk and prompt action by the U.S. and South Korean militaries.

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuelan explosive experts are inspecting a grounded Air France flight after being tipped off by French authorities that a terrorist group may be planning to detonate an explosive device in midair.
Venezuelan Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres told state TV that bomb experts are performing an exhaustive search of the aircraft that will take several hours.
Rodriguez said that flight (hash)385 to Paris was scheduled to depart at 7:25 p.m. local time Saturday but was cancelled after French authorities received information from a credible source that a terrorist group is seeking to place a bomb aboard a future flight between the two cities.
He said information is still being processed and it is unclear whether the targeted flight would depart from Caracas or Paris.

MANDELA MOURNING
QUNU, South Africa (AP) -- Nelson Mandela is back home. A hearse carrying the body of the former South African president has arrived in the rural village of Qunu (KOO'-noo), where he'll be buried after his funeral tomorrow.
An enormous convoy of police, military and other vehicles escorted the vehicle carrying Mandela's casket to his family compound. As it passed by, people lining the route sang, applauded and wept.
On arrival at the family compound, the national flag covering Mandela's casket was replaced with a leopard skin, a tribal tradition honoring a leader.
Mandela's journey started with pomp and ceremony at an air base in the capital before being flown aboard a military plane to his hometown in eastern South Africa.

JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- The spokesman for retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu says the Nobel prize-winning cleric has changed his plans and will attend the funeral of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.
Roger Friedman said late Saturday that Tutu will take a flight early Sunday morning in order to attend Mandela's funeral service in Qunu. He did not say what brought about the change in Tutu's plans.
Earlier Saturday Tutu had said he would not attend because he had not been invited and did not want to "gatecrash" Mandela's burial services. The South African government said that Tutu had been invited.

LIMASSOL, Cyprus (AP) -- A Danish chemical expert says Danish and Norwegian ships can safely ferry up to 500 tons of Syria's most dangerous chemical weapons out of the strife-torn country.
Bjoern Schmidt says sealed containers full of chemical compounds, which when mixed can create lethal Sarin and VX gases, will be loaded at opposite ends of the two cargo ships.
Schmidt said Saturday the exact quantity of chemicals to be taken out of Syria is unknown.
Cmdr. Henrik Holck Rasmussen, of Danish frigate HDMS Esbern Snare, said two cargo ships will go to Syria as many times as needed to pick up all chemical weapons.
The Danish warship and a Norwegian frigate will act as escorts. Both are docked in Cyprus along with a cargo ship. The second cargo ship hasn't arrived yet.

BAGHDAD (AP) -- At least 12 people have been killed today in attacks in and around the Iraqi capital.
Police officials say six were killed and 15 wounded when a car bomb went off in western Baghdad near a tent serving Shiite pilgrims heading to the holy Shiite city of Karbala.
Earlier in the day, three people were killed and 11 others were wounded when a bomb exploded at an outdoor market in a southeastern suburb of Baghdad.
Police say two people were killed and seven others were wounded in a bomb blast inside a restaurant in a northeastern suburb of the capital.
And gunmen killed the owner of a grocery store as he was walking near his Baghdad home.
At least 196 people have died in attacks across the country so far this month, according to an Associated Press count.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- An official says Gaza's rescue service has evacuated more than 4,000 people from homes flooded after four days of heavy rain across the territory.
The downpour continued Saturday. It's part of a storm that covered Jerusalem and some of the West Bank with thick snow.
In Gaza, some of those trapped by rising waters were evacuated by fishing boats. A local TV station showed a rescuer standing on the shoulders of another man in a boat as they tried to reach people in a third-floor apartment.
Mohammed al-Madaina of the Gaza rescue service says efforts were hampered by lack of fuel and power, a result of a tightened Egyptian border closure. Israel and Egypt have restricted access to Gaza since the Islamic militant Hamas seized the territory in 2007.

CAIRO (AP) -- Egypt's interim President Adly Mansour says a key referendum on the country's amended constitution is set for Jan. 14-15, and is calling on citizens to vote "yes" to move ahead with what he terms the country's transition to democracy.
Mansour said Saturday that the draft constitution "should make every Egyptian proud" because it sets up a modern democratic state. He said the vote on the amended charter will pave the way for elections.
The charter replaces the constitution drafted by an Islamist-led panel and suspended after President Mohammed Morsi was ousted by the military in July.
The new draft constitution is a first step in implementing the political transition laid down by the military after it removed Morsi from power.

NEW DELHI (AP) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai says he hopes the United States will reconsider its stand on a security agreement it wants him to sign in the interests of bringing a lasting peace to his war-torn country.
Karzai said Saturday that the Afghan people can't endorse a deal without the U.S. agreeing to end airstrikes and raids on Afghan homes and help broker a peace process with the Taliban.
Karzai told reporters in the Indian capital of New Delhi that the Afghan people understand the consequences of defying the U.S. and that it could cost them billions of dollars.
The United States is pressing Karzai to sign the deal, which would permit a small force of American military trainers to remain in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 2014.

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran has canceled a planned $500 million loan to Pakistan to build part of a pipeline to bring natural gas from the Islamic Republic.
Deputy Oil Minister Ali Majedi said Iran has no obligation to finance the Pakistani side of the project and also doesn't have the money.
Iran has already invested over $2 billion to construct the Iranian side of the pipeline. But there are serious doubts about how Pakistan could finance the $2 billion needed to construct the pipeline on its territory. Iran's former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had pledged the loan.
Pakistan has welcomed an Iranian offer to approach third parties, including European companies, to finance the project.
"Pakistani officials were told in recent talks that, given the sanctions, Iran is not able to finance construction of the pipeline (in Pakistan) and has no obligation to do so," he said. His comments were posted on the oil ministry's website, shana.ir, Saturday.
Majedi complained that Pakistan has done little to construct its own section of the project. Under a valid contract, Pakistan is required to finish construction of the pipeline on its territory by the end of 2014.
"If a contractor is chosen today and pipeline construction begins today, it will take four years to complete it. Should Pakistan fail to take gas by the end of next year, Iran will demand compensation under the terms of the contract," he said.
The Iran-Pakistan pipeline is designed to help Pakistan overcome its mushrooming energy needs. Pakistanis experience frequent blackouts.
The U.S. has opposed the project but leaders of both Iran and Pakistan have vowed to implement what they refer to as the "peace pipeline."

BEIJING (AP) -- An official says a gas explosion at a coal mine in western China has killed 21 workers.
The workers were earlier reported trapped by the blast in Xinjiang region's Changji prefecture. Twelve others escaped the explosion early Friday.
An official at the Xinjiang's work safety bureau said Saturday that 21 miners were confirmed dead and one was injured. The official, surnamed Wang, refused to give further details and said the incident was under investigation.
Such accidents are usually caused by a failure to ventilate methane gas from the shaft. China's mines are the deadliest in the world and suffer frequent explosions, floods and cave-ins.
Safety improvements have reduced the number of deaths in recent years, but regulations are still often ignored.

MADRID (AP) -- Around 6,000 people dressed as Santa Claus and his elves have run a "mini-marathon" through the streets of Madrid to promote festive cheer as the country tries to emerge from a two-year recession.
While grown-ups dressed in red costumes with wispy white beards, children donned green elf outfits to run the 5.5 kilometer (3.4 miles) course through the city center.
The race was organized Saturday by one of Spain's leading department stores and it contributed 1 euro ($1.34) for each entrant to a charity that buys Christmas presents for deprived children around the world.
Javier Menendez, one of the runners, said he was surprised at the number of people who have donned the robes for the run.


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