Briefs, February 20, 2013

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 February, 2013, 4:32am

President re-elected as nearest rival cries foul

YEREVAN - Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan won election to a second five-year mandate but his rival alleged violations and international observers complained the polls lacked competition. Sargsyan won Monday's poll in the small ex-Soviet state with 58.64 per cent of the votes. His nearest rival, former foreign minister Raffi Hovannisian, trailed with 36.75 per cent, the election commission said. Hovannisian's camp alleged a range of sometimes bizarre electoral violations. AFP


Nigerian 'terrorists' kidnap French tourists

DAKAR - Gunmen kidnapped seven French nationals, including three children, in northern Cameroon near the border with Nigeria, French President Francois Hollande said. The risk of attacks on French nationals and interests in Africa has risen since France sent forces into Mali last month to help oust Islamist rebels occupying the country's north. "They have been taken by a terrorist group that we know and that is in Nigeria," Hollande said. Reuters


Power company axed amid soaring prices

SOFIA - Bulgaria's prime minister has announced that the licence held by Czech company CEZ for power distribution in parts of the Balkan country will be revoked following protests against high electricity prices. The move comes in the wake of nationwide protests against skyrocketing electricity prices. Boyko Borisov also said electricity prices would be cut by 8 per cent. AP


Nestle hit by Europe's horsemeat scandal

PARIS - Nestle, the world's biggest food company, has become the latest firm hit by Europe's horsemeat scandal, announcing it is removing two pasta meals from supermarket shelves in Italy and Spain due to contamination. Nestle found traces of horse DNA in two products. Concerns about horsemeat contamination first emerged in mid-January when Irish authorities found traces of horsemeat in beefburgers made by firms in Ireland and Britain. AFP


Yemeni military plane hits homes in Sanaa

SANAA - A Yemeni military aircraft ploughed into a building in a residential neighbourhood of Sanaa yesterday, killing the pilot and at least nine civilians, the emergency services said. The crash occurred near Change Square, an epicentre of the revolt that ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh. The toll is expected to rise as the badly damaged building was occupied by homes and shops. The aircraft hit two buildings before finally crashing on top of a third, witnesses said. AFP


At least two dead in series of shootings

LOS ANGELES - A string of shootings after an apparent carjacking in southern California left at least two people dead, including the suspected gunmen, police said. The Los Angeles Times put the toll at four dead and said the suspected gunman shot and killed himself after officers found him in a stolen vehicle and pursued him into the city of Orange, California. Orange County sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino said there were shootings at six locations. AP


Turkish police target leftists after bombing

ISTANBUL - Police launched raids across Turkey targeting a militant leftist group behind a suicide bomb attack on the United States embassy, ordering the arrest of nearly 200 people, state-run Anatolian news agency reported. The nationwide operation came after a member of the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front blew himself up at an entrance of the US embassy in Ankara on February 1, killing a Turkish security guard. Police arrested 15 people. Reuters


Afghan civilian air-strike deaths fall

KABUL - The UN mission in Afghanistan says air strikes by the US-led coalition killed 126 civilians last year, a nearly 50 per cent drop from the year before. The report says the civilian death toll for the year dropped 12 per cent to 2,754. It also says the Taliban and other insurgents increasingly targeted civilians and were responsible for 81 per cent of civilian casualties last year. Kabul this week banned its troops from calling in Nato air strikes. AP


Russia and EU to check Kosovo organ traffic

MOSCOW - Russia says it is investigating allegations of illegal donor organ trafficking in Kosovo. The EU is also checking allegations that commanders of the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army, including Kosovo's prime minister, Hashim Thaci, were involved in illegal organ trading during Kosovo's war for independence from Serbia. Thaci denies all of the allegations. AP


NZ plans plain packs for cigarettes

WELLINGTON - New Zealand has announced plans to force tobacco companies to sell cigarettes in plain packaging, becoming only the second country in the world ,after Australia, to introduce the measure. Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia said selling cigarettes in drab boxes with explicit health warnings "will remove the last remaining vestige of glamour from these deadly products". AFP