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World briefs, August 29, 2012

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 August, 2012, 3:42am

France starts probe into Arafat's death

PARIS - French prosecutors have opened a murder enquiry into Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's 2004 death near Paris. Arafat's family launched legal action in France last month over claims the veteran Palestinian leader died of radioactive polonium poisoning. Arafat died at a military hospital near Paris in 2004. Last month after Al-Jazeera news channel broadcast an investigation in which experts said they found high levels of polonium on his personal effects. AFP

Iraq executes 21on terror charges

BAGHDAD - Iraq has executed 21 people, convicted of terror-related charges, on the same day, including three women, a spokesman said on Tuesday, bringing to 91 the number of people executed this year. The executions come despite a call from the UN's human rights chief for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty in Iraq, due to concerns over court proceedings. A justice ministry official said the executions were carried out on Monday morning. AFP

Britain rules out third runway for Heathrow

LONDON - The British government has ruled out building another runway at Heathrow airport in the face of calls from Conservative Party legislators to abandon its opposition. Transport Secretary Justine Greening pointed to the coalition agreement between Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives and their Liberal Democrat partners, which rules out a third runway, and said the opposition Labour Party also was against the plan. Greening said the proposed Heathrow runway would be too short for the largest planes and she would shortly begin a consultation on a long-term solution, with a new airport one possibility. Bloomberg

Romanian president survives referendum

BUCHAREST - Romania's president has returned to his post after a referendum to oust him failed, ending a nearly two-month political standoff. Traian Basescu, 60, arrived at the presidential palace, without comment. The populist former ship captain survived efforts to remove him on grounds he violated the constitution. Too few people voted in the July 29 referendum to validate it, although a large majority voted to oust him. AP

Colombia holds talks with rebel group

BOGOTA - President Juan Manuel Santos says his government has opened "exploratory talks" with Colombia's main rebel group in a bid to end a half-century-old conflict. Santos' statement on Monday in a brief televised address confirmed mounting rumours of talks, supposedly held in Cuba, with the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which is largely a peasant army. Santos offered no details of the talks. AP

Russia hands activist an 8-year jail term

MOSCOW - A Russian opposition activist was sentenced yesterday to eight years in jail on drug charges, her husband said. The sentence is twice as long as prosecutors had sought in a ruling that drew immediate opposition outrage. Taisiya Osipova and her supporters have maintained that police planted four grams of heroin in her home in 2010 in revenge for her refusal to testify against her husband, Sergei Fomchenkov, an opposition activist. AP

US approves new pill for HIV treatment

WASHINGTON - A new pill to treat HIV infection - combining two previously approved drugs plus two new ones - has been approved for adults living with the virus that causes Aids, US regulators say. The single daily dose of Stribild provides a complete treatment regimen for HIV infection, and is meant for people who have not already received treatment with other HIV drugs. The new pill, previously called Quad, is made by Gilead Sciences in California and "should be available to patients by the end of the week", the firm said. AFP

Criticism over Gambia's killing of nine prisoners

BANJUL - Gambia says it has executed nine prisoners, prompting critics to call for sanctions on the president whose plans to clear the country's death row by mid-September had already drawn a flurry of global condemnation. Six civilians and three soldiers were shot dead on Sunday after their appeal processes had been exhausted. Gambia named the prisoners and said they had been found guilty of various crimes, all involving murder. Reuters

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