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Friday, 7 February 2014

Dunya TV News Letter 07-Feb-2014

Dunya TV

Syria must speed up removal of chemical weapons: UN


UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - Syria must move faster to remove its deadly chemical weapons stockpile and meet the June 30 deadline set for destroying its arsenal, the UN Security Council demanded Thursday.The 15 member nations call upon the Syrian Arab Republic to expedite actions to meet its obligations, the councils president for the month, Lithuanias UN ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite, told reporters..The chemical weapons must be transported to the Syrian port of Latakia in a systematic and sufficiently accelerated manner, Murmokaite insisted, after summarizing the closed door discussions the council held earlier Thursday with Sigrid Kaag, who is tasked with coordinating Syrias disarmament.Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has pledged to eliminate Syrias entire chemical weapons arsenal by the end of June or face sanctions, including the possible use of force.Less than five percent of the deadly stockpile has been removed from Syria, according to Washington, and Damascus has just missed another key deadline.Rejecting in part Damascas explanations for the delay, the Security Council noted that, according to UN assessments,Syria has sufficient material and equipment as well as substantial international support to transport their chemical weapons stockpile in line with deadlines.The Lithuanian ambassador welcomed the cooperation between the government and the joint mission by the United Nations and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical weapons led by Kaag.The councils members remain committed to seeing the 30 June deadline met, Murmokaite concluded.Earlier Thursday, diplomats said Kaag had told the council that Syrias delay in destroying its chemical arsenal was not insurmountable but Damascus must sharply step up the pace to meet its deadlines.As the Council is aware, the intermediate timeline objectives have not been met. Syria is at critical juncture, diplomats quoted Kaag as warning the council.Western powers have expressed concern at the slow pace of the handover, fearing that Assad is playing for time, but Russia, Syrias key ally on the UN Security Council, called for calm.Things are moving along, Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin said on Wednesday.We are confident this project is going to be accomplished in a timely manner and these chemicals are going to be destroyed.But, even before Kaags briefing, envoys remained skeptical.We feel the times for excuses has run out, British ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said as he arrived.There needs be proper arrangements for accelerating the process of getting the chemicals out of Syria.The United States says only about four percent of Syrias declared arsenal has left the port of Latakia so far -- far less than the 700 tonnes the country was supposed to dispose of by the end of 2013.In addition to the 700 tonnes of the most deadly agents that should have been dealt with last year, another 500 tonnes of less deadly category two chemicals should have left by Wednesday.In fact, only two small shipments have left Latakia, on January 7 and 27. Another 120 tonnes of isopropanol is due to be shipped before March 1.The UN Security Council last year backed a US-Russian deal to destroy Syrias vast chemical arsenal after chemical attacks near Damascus that Washington blamed on the regime.

7 bombs hit Baghdad as US lawmakers slam Maliki


BAGHDAD (AFP) - Seven bombs ripped through Baghdad killing seven people Thursday, hours after American lawmakers criticised the slow pace of political reconciliation in Iraq which they said was stoking the worsening violence.The blasts, which mostly targeted Shiite-majority neighbourhoods of the capital, come amid the countrys deadliest protracted period of unrest since 2008 as security forces grapple with near-daily attacks and battle militants in Anbar province.Diplomats have called for the Shiite-led government to do more to reach out to the disaffected Sunni Arab minority, but with a general election looming in April, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has taken a hard line.There has been no let-up in the bloodshed, with seven bombs going off across Baghdad from around noon (0900 GMT), while militants also mounted a massive, though ultimately abortive, assault on a jail in northern Iraq.The blasts in the capital killed at least seven people and wounded more than 40, security and medical officials said.Four of the neighbourhoods hit are populated mostly by Iraqs Shiite majority. The other three bombs went off in commercial districts in the centre of Baghdad.The blasts came a day after 33 people were killed in the capital, 25 of them in a series of bombings near the heavily fortified Green Zone, which is home to parliament, the prime ministers office and the US and British embassies.No one immediately claimed responsibility for the latest attacks, but Sunni militant groups, including the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), have claimed previous bombing campaigns targeting Shiites in the capital.Elsewhere in Iraq on Thursday, a car bomb near a Kurdish political partys offices killed one person in Tuz Khurmatu, while a police general and his bodyguard were wounded by a bombing in Baquba.In Nineveh province in the north, militants mounted a massive assault on Badush prison late on Wednesday, reminiscent of twin attacks on jails near Baghdad last July that succeeded in freeing dozens of inmates.The attempted prison break left one guard dead and 14 wounded, and involved mortar fire as a riot broke out inside the jail, but was ultimately repulsed, the justice ministry said.US House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce said on Wednesday that Malikis failure to do more to address Sunni grievances had allowed ISIL to exploit the minority communitys alienation to sharply step up its attacks.As head of state, while he may not be up to it, Maliki must take steps to lead Iraq to a post-sectarian era, Royce said.Al-Qaeda has become very skilled at exploiting this sectarian rift, and Malikis power grab has given them much ammunition.US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran Brett McGurk insisted Maliki had made changes since he visited Washington in November and got a very direct message from President Barack Obama on enlisting the Sunnis into the fight.ISIL has also been fighting security forces in Anbar, a mostly Sunni desert region bordering Syria where militants have held parts of Ramadi and all of Fallujah for weeks.Security forces and tribal auxiliaries have made slow progress in Ramadi but recaptured several neighbourhoods late Tuesday, an AFP journalist reported.In Fallujah, however, security forces have largely stayed out of the city for fear that major incursions could spark high civilian casualties and heavy damage to property.The city was a bastion of the Sunni insurgency following the 2003 US-led invasion, and American troops there fought some of the costliest battles since the Vietnam War.Ahmed Abu Risha, a prominent tribal leader in the Sunni Awakening movement, which allied with US troops against Al-Qaeda and now supports the government, said an attack on the city was imminent and has urged anti-government fighters to lay down their arms.The standoff in Anbar has prompted more than 140,000 people to flee their homes, the UN refugee agency said, describing it as the worst displacement in Iraq since the peak of sectarian fighting between 2006 and 2008.

At least 22 dead in central Nigeria attack: locals


JOS (AFP) - At least 22 people were killed in a raid in restive central Nigeria on Thursday, locals said, in the second such attack in the area this week.Gunmen opened fire in the predominantly Muslim village of Mavo in the Wase local government area of Plateau state at about 2:00 am (0100 GMT) in an apparent warning, witnesses said.Security forces in the area went to investigate and the gunmen returned in the early afternoon, shooting villagers and burning houses.The attackers came to the village in their hundreds and started shooting sporadically. I counted 22 persons who were already dead. Over 10 houses were also burnt, said local resident Nangak Bako.It was unclear who carried out the attack but on Tuesday, about 30 people were killed in two mainly Christian villages in the nearby Riyom district in a similar raid and more than 50 houses burnt.The interim administrator of Wase council, Zakari Haruna, and state police both confirmed the attack but neither gave a casualty figure. There was no immediate comment from the military.Plateau state has a long history of ethnic and religious violence between Hausa-speaking Muslim Fulani herdsman and Christian groups.The state lies in Nigerias so-called Middle Belt, where the majority Muslim north meets the predominantly Christian south.More than 10,000 people are thought to have died in tit-for-tat violence in Plateau and neighbouring Kaduna state since 1992, Human Rights Watch said in December last year.Other causes include perceived favouritism or discrimination on the part of the local authorities towards the two groups.

Tennis: Nadal withdraws from Buenos Aires event


PARIS (AFP) - World number one Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from next week's ATP tournament in Buenos Aires because of a lingering back injury, the Spaniard announced on Thursday.Nadal posted a video on his official YouTube page, in which he said he had failed to fully recover from the back problem that plagued him during last month's Australian Open final.I wanted to make an announcement that really fills me with sadness. I will not be able to play in the tournament in Buenos Aires, Nadal said.Since I came back from the Australian Open with my back injury I have not been able to train.It is impossible for me to prepare properly for a tournament as important as Buenos Aires, so very unfortunately I have to take this decision.The 13-time Grand Slam champion was beaten 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 by Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka in the final in Melbourne.

Golf: Woods confirms he'll skip WGC Match Play


LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Tiger Woods made it official on Thursday, confirming on his website that he'll skip the WGC Match Play Championship this month.The world number one announced that his next tournament will be the US PGA Tour's Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, February 27-March 2.After that he'll play the World Golf Championships Cadillac Championship at Doral near Miami, and the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Orlando -- in both of which he is the defending champion.The WGC-Cadillac is March 6-9, and the Palmer Invitational is March 20-23.That will then give Woods some time off before he tackles the first major of the year, the Masters at Augusta National April 10-13.The Honda Classic is close to my home, and I want to support it whenever I can, Woods said. We have a Learning Center at Murray Middle School in Stuart, Florida, and this event does so much to help the community, including the efforts of the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation.Woods' victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational last year was his eighth title at Bay Hill, and vaulted him back to number one in the world for the first time since 2010.I'm also excited about spending time with Arnold and defending my title at his tournament and the WGC-Cadillac. I'm looking forward to seeing what they've done at Doral, Woods said.Although he is a three-time winner of the WGC Match Play, Woods's decision to skip it had been expected.Even though original plans to travel to Sochi to watch girlfriend Lindsey Vonn have fallen by the wayside because of the knee injury that forced Vonn out of the Winter Games, Woods said he decided to use the week to get ready for the later events closer to his Florida home.I had planned to take that week off and travel with Lindsey to Sochi, but unfortunately that won't happen, Woods said. Instead, I'll stay home and prepare for the Florida tournaments.

Golf: Forsyth back in the hunt at Joburg Open


JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - Scotlands Alastair Forsyth carded a seven-under 64 on the West Course to share the first-round lead in the European Tours Joburg Open on Thursday with Italian Ryder Cup star Edoardo Molinari and home hope Justin Walters.Also on seven under after 65, but on the par-72 East Course, was another Scot, Craig Lee.The field is split between the East and West Courses for the opening two rounds before the action descends on the East lay-out for the weekend.Forsyth, a two-time European Tour winner who has had to go back to Qualifying School, needed just 30 shots to reach the turn.The front nine was probably as good as Ive played in a long time, he said.I seemed to do everything right on the front nine, but I struggled a little on the back, where I ended up between clubs a few times. No dropped shots and seven birdies, so Im never going to complain with that.The 32-year-old Molinari has been impeded by a string of fitness issues since making his Ryder Cup debut alongside brother Francesco at The Celtic Manor Resort in 2010.Having finished tied for ninth in Dubai last week, the former US Amateur Champion was once again in fine form.Three British Open Championship places are on offer to the best-placed players in the top 10 not already exempt, with all of the leading trio yet to secure an invite to Royal Liverpool.Lee admitted that the added incentive of a major Championship debut was spurring him on.Its really hard to figure out where you are in the field with two golf courses, and with the east being slightly tougher I feel like Im in a good position, he said.If we can keep the same level of golf then we might be able to separate ourselves from the bunch.You dont really change your strategy, but its a great reward for three lucky guys wholl get a chance to play in The Open.Walters is also seeking a maiden major appearance - but may elect not to go to Hoylake even if he qualifies because his girlfriend is due to give birth that week.

Rallying: Ogier in lead in Sweden


HAGFORS (AFP) - Frances Sebastien Ogier held the lead at the end of Thursdays action in the Rally of Sweden, the second leg of this years World Rally Championship.Volkswagen driver Ogier, the defending world champion and winner in Sweden last year, leads two fellow Volkswagen drivers in Andreas Mikkelsen of Norway and Jari-Matti Latvala of Finland.Mikkelsen trails by a margin of 5.8 seconds, with Latvala 12.2 seconds off the pace after a day which featured six stages covering a total of over 60 kilometres on icy roads and saw drivers cross the border into Norway.Ogier and Mikkelsen have won six of the seven special stages between them since the start of the event on Wednesday evening, with Estonias Ott Tanak winning special stage five.I didnt expect to finish the day in first place after being first on the road this morning, admitted Ogier.Friday will feature nine more special stages with almost 120 kilometres timed.

Cycling: German Kittel wins Dubai Tour 2nd stage


DUBAI (AFP) - German cyclist Marcel Kittel, from team Giant-Shimano, secured his first victory this season after winning on Thursday the second stage of the Dubai Tour 2014.The 122-kilometre (76-mile) race started from the Dubai World Trade Centre, with 127 cyclists from 16 teams spanning around desert highways before concluding at the tip of the man-made Palm Island.American Taylor Phinney won the inaugural stage on Wednesday.Many roads were closed for the tour and several schools closed in fear of traffic problems.The four-stage race is, held for the first time in the Gulf emirate is 416.9-kilometre (259-mile) long.

Oil strikes 2014 peak


LONDON (AFP) - Oil rallied Thursday to the highest level so far this year, propelled by the weak dollar, upbeat jobless claims data and strong heating fuel demand in the United States.US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for delivery in March jumped as high as $98.83 per barrel. It later stood at $98.16, up 78 cents from Wednesday.Brent North Sea crude for March rose 58 cents to stand at $106.83 a barrel in afternoon London deals.The oil market extended gains after US data showed weekly new claims for unemployment insurance fell to 331,000 from 351,000 the previous week.The bright data weighed on the greenback, which makes dollar-priced crude cheaper for buyers using stronger currencies. That tends to boost demand and prices.Crude futures also won solid support on stronger demand for heating fuel in the United States as the country grapples with severe winter, dealers said.The 20,000 drop in weekly jobless claims has helped weaken the US dollar and push US oil prices to four-week highs as another snow storm gets ready to hit the Eastern United States, said analyst Michael Hewson at trading firm CMC Markets UK.This has helped drag Brent prices higher along with it, even though todays European economic data was disappointing, with German factory orders sliding 0.5 percent in December.The improvement in US jobless claims, a sign of the pace of layoffs, came a day ahead of the Labor Department's January job growth and unemployment data.The oil market had risen on Wednesday after a closely-watched US oil inventories report suggested severe winter weather across large parts of the country was pushing up demand for heating oil.Stockpiles at the trading hub in Cushing, Oklahoma, sank 1.5 million barrels, the Department of Energy (DoE) said on Wednesday, indicating strong demand and lifting oil prices.US commercial crude reserves rose 400,000 barrels in the week ending January 31, the DoE added, much smaller than the average analyst estimate of 2.2 million.But traders focused on the fourth straight week of declines in distillates, which include diesel and heating oil.Distillates fell 2.4 million barrels, far more than the 2.0 million barrels estimated.Freezing conditions continue across the States, supporting heating oil demand, said analyst Lucy Sidebotham at British-based energy consultancy Inenco.Treacherous snow and freezing rain struck the northeastern United States on Wednesday, disrupting thousands of flights and causing traffic chaos for millions.More than 600,000 people were without power as high winds and ice knocked down trees and electrical lines.Most were in Pennsylvania, but New Jersey and New York also experienced significant outages.A state of emergency was declared in New Jersey and New York, where dwindling reserves of salt -- used to melt snow and road ice -- was a problem.

Dollar mixed ahead of January jobs report


NEW YORK (AFP) - The dollar was mixed Thursday ahead of a US jobs report that could shed light on the health of the US economic recovery as the Federal Reserve reduces stimulus.The euro scored broad gains after the European Central Bank held its key interest rates steady and downplayed risks of damaging deflation in the eurozone.If the ECB is holding tight, maybe it means the situation is not so dramatic and recovery in Europe is still under way, said Alexandre Baradez, analyst at IG brokerage.The euro bought $1.3591 around 2200 GMT, up from $1.3533 late Wednesday.The common European currency advanced to 138.79 yen from 137.30 yen.The dollar also made headway against the Japanese currency, fetching 102.10 yen compared with 101.45 yen the prior day.The US Labor Department's report of January data on job creation and unemployment early Friday could make or break the greenback, said Kathy Lien of BK Asset Management.An abysmal December jobs report published in early January sent the dollar reeling. Market hopes are high that the shockingly low 74,000 jobs generated in December were a blip due to severe winter weather.Economists are predicting 175,000 jobs were added in January and the unemployment would remain unchanged at 6.7 percent.Lien noted that Thursday's strong US equities gains, a rally in risk currencies and an uptick in Treasury bond yields point to investor expectations for a solid jobs report, adding she was among those seeing job numbers rebounding.If they don't, the US economy is in big trouble and (new Fed chair) Janet Yellen's credibility will come under serious scrutiny, she said. There's a risk that the increase will fall short of expectations, driving the dollar sharply lower.Yellen, who took the helm of the central bank on February 1, is in the spotlight as she guides the Fed's exit from its massive stimulus begun under her predecessor Ben Bernanke.The pound, meanwhile, firmed against the dollar after the Bank of England held its record-low main interest rate steady. Sterling bought $1.6323, up from $1.6308 late Wednesday.The dollar slipped to 0.9004 Swiss franc from 0.9035 franc.

Sri Lanka question 'illegal' ICC revamp


LONDON (AFP) - Sri Lanka have insisted plans for wholesale reform of the International Cricket Council are in conflict with the organisation's fundamental principles.Last month the ICC said it had reached unanimous agreement on the outline of a plan to give the sport's most financially powerful nations -- India, England and Australia -- a greater say in running the world game.Sri Lanka, together with Pakistan and South Africa, had already objected to the proposals when they were leaked ahead of an ICC board meeting in Dubai.Soon after the talks, it became clear several countries still had concerns ahead of Saturday's follow-up meeting in Singapore, which could see a vote on implementing the plans.In a letter seen by AFP in London, Sri Lanka Cricket board president Jayantha Dharmadasa has written to the ICC's head of legal affairs, Iain Higgins, warning the reforms are not valid in law.The letter, sent to the ICC's Dubai headquarters on February 5, states that one of the objects for which the ICC was established was to regulate and promote the game worldwide in co-operation with its members.However, Dharmadasa argued the proposed changes take away power from the 10 full members and vest it in an inordinately disproportionate manner in just three full members, namely the boards of India, England and Australia. The purported resolutions also have the effect of taking a disproportionately large share of the funding available from the ICC and distributing it among these three full members, Dharmadasa added. This is contrary to the equal revenue share model that is enshrined in the constitution.The other major proposed change is the end of the current Future Tours Programme, designed to give all 10 leading countries a regular diet of international cricket, and a return to 'bilateral' series.Critics such as former England captain Michael Atherton have said the plans represent the end of the notion that a fair and principled and just body can govern cricket in the interests of all.But the 'Big Three' have insisted their scheme is about more than their own self-interest, with England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chairman Giles Clarke saying: If the status quo was so successful, why were so many countries in a perilous financial state?He added: All countries earn more through this proposal. No member would earn less and, if our predictions are correct, most will earn an awful lot more. How can that be bad for cricket?

England remain coy over Pietersen axe


LONDON (AFP) - England national selector James Whitaker refused to reveal on Thursday why Kevin Pietersens international career had been cut short, citing legal reasons.Whitaker, in his first public appearance since replacing Geoff Miller as Englands selection supremo, was the first member of the England and Wales Cricket Board hierarchy to comment since a carefully-worded statement issued Tuesday signalled the end of star batsman Pietersens time in the international game.The intervening 48 hours had seen the ECB widely criticised by the likes of England great Ian Botham for failing to provide a specific reason as to why Pietersen, Englands leading run scorer across all international formats, had been jettisoned.That left a statement which spoke of a need to rebuild not only the team but also the team ethic and philosophy after Englands 5-0 Ashes series thrashing in Australia.Whitaker, asked about Pietersens England exile, told Sky Sports: That is a legal position and at the moment Im not at liberty to say.Whitakers mobile phone then appeared to ring and the interview was briefly halted.But when it resumed, he added: Unfortunately Im not in a position to reiterate what reasons there have been.Thursday saw Whitaker announce Englands first post-Pietersen squads for the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh and the preceding limited overs series in the West Indies.The one-day international team and the England Twenty20 team has played a number of matches over the last 12 months or so without Kevin and, on occasion, performed very well, and I would hope thats the case going forward, said former batsman Whitaker, a one Test wonder against Australia in 1986.Its still a surprise going to an ICC competition without one of your leading run-scorers but the players and management are well rehearsed in coping without him.What I can say is this is a group of players who can look forward to re-energising the team going forward with different values, (to) re-evaluate the culture of the team.England, over the last four or five years, have shown these good values.Over time they can dissipate a little but now is a good time to rewrite those values.Uncapped duo Moeen Ali and Stephen Parry were included in a 15-man group for both events, while fellow newcomer Harry Gurney will head to the West Indies.The only time England have won a major limited overs international trophy was when, with Pietersen playing a leading role, they triumphed at the 2010 World Twenty20 in the Caribbean.

Nigeria's ex-militant leader held over 'inflammatory' comments


ABUJA (AFP) - Nigerias secret police said on Thursday that it was holding a former militant leader from the oil-rich Niger Delta, in the latest crackdown on potential trouble before elections next year.Presidential and parliamentary polls are scheduled for February 2015 but tensions are already rising between President Goodluck Jonathans ruling party and the main opposition.Department of State Services (DSS) spokeswoman Marylin Ogar told AFP that Mujahid Asari-Dokubo, leader of the outlawed Niger Delta Volunteer Force, had been invited for questioning.His invitation is based on our earlier warning to all Nigerians to desist from making inflammatory statements that could threaten (the) peace and security of the nation, she said. He is still with us.The Niger Delta Volunteer Force led a violent campaign to seek a greater share of Nigerias oil wealth from the people of the resource-rich south during the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo, who ruled from 1999 to 2007.The activities of Asari-Dokubo, a Muslim convert formerly known as Melford Dokubo Goodhead Jr, led to a substantial drop in Nigerias oil production, prompting the government to jail him.He was released in 2007 after renouncing violence, and has lately been drumming up support for Jonathan, who also hails from the Niger Delta region.The last time Obasanjo arrested me, my arrest reduced Nigerias oil production to 700,000 barrels per day, he was quoted as saying in the local media.This time, we will reduce it to zero and we will match violence with violence. We are ready for them. Jonathan will complete his tenure of two terms whether they like it or not.Asari-Dokubo is concerned that another president may roll back on agreements that have seen a greater share of oil revenues distributed back to the producing regions.Last week, the DSS quizzed Nasir El-Rufai, a former minister and key opposition figure, over comments he made that were interpreted as a possible incitement to violence.The DSS last month warned anyone seeking to foment unrest before the keenly watched vote after the two main parties traded threats and insults over the key state of Rivers, in the southern Delta.The states governor, Rotimi Amaechi, has been locked in a battle with Jonathan for months over claims that Rivers was missing out on lucrative oil revenue and federal infrastructure projects.Amaechi was one of five governors to defect last year from Jonathans Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC), prompting dozens of lawmakers to follow suit.The APC on January 23 accused state police commissioner Joseph Mbu of being a de facto military governor for disrupting peaceful party rallies, including one in which a key Amaechi ally was shot.Mbu is widely seen by the opposition as loyal to Jonathan.On Thursday, the Police Service Commission announced that Mbu would be redeployed from Rivers to the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja, without specifying the date for the transfer.He will be replaced by Johnson Ogunsaki, who moves from the Special Fraud Unit.The information commissioner for Rivers state, Ibim Semenitari, said Mbu had been a major embarrassment for the police while APC spokesman Lai Mohammed said their stance had been vindicated.God has answered our prayer. When God has answered your prayer and He is on your side, what else can you say? he added.People accused us of making too much noise about Mbu. But our so-called noise has paid off. Let us watch and see what happens.

Eight dead, one missing in South Africa mine blaze


DOORNKOP (AFP) - Eight workers have been found dead deep inside a burning South African gold mine, their union said Thursday, as rescuers raced to find one miner still missing.The bodies were discovered late Wednesday at the mine west of Johannesburg, National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) spokesman Livhuwani Mammburu told AFP.An earth tremor is thought to have triggered the accident at Harmony Golds Doornkop mine, some 1.7 kilometres (more than a mile) below ground.After the tremor, a resulting rock fall is thought to have damaged electric cables and started the fire that caused the most serious mining accident in South Africa since 2009.Seventeen miners had initially been trapped by the blaze.On Wednesday eight were rescued from a underground refuge chamber, a sealed unit with compressed air and water supply.Eight more were found dead after a search that was hampered by heavy smoke and ground tremors. The search continues for the ninth employee, Harmony Gold said in a statement.Like his colleagues, the unnamed miner was provided with a rescue pack, which provides enough air to breathe for 30 to 35 minutes -- theoretically enough time to get to a rescue chamber.As rescue teams toiled underground to find the man, hundreds of his colleagues gathered in front of the shaft for a memorial service to the eight men that did not make it.They joined in prayer and -- although many come from neighbouring Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique -- sang South Africas national anthem.People died, these guys are my colleagues, said miner Zacaria Maude.Its not good when you wake up in the morning you say youre going to work -- you tell your wife and children -- but at the end of the day, you never come back. I find it very, very, very sad.Company CEO Graham Briggs told AFP said the firm was working to make contact with the families of the deceased and provide counselling and financial help.No matter what it costs to recover the situation, we will spend that money to recover the situation, he said.InvestigationMining Minister Susan Shabangu described the incident was deeply regrettable and said an inquiry would begin as soon as the last man was found.We must ensure that we do all we can to get to the bottom of what caused this incident, in order to prevent similar occurrences in future, she said.Operations at Harmony Golds Doornkop mine will cease until the area has been declared safe for employees.Accidents are commonplace in South Africas mines, which are the deepest in the world.In July 2009, nine workers were killed in a rock fall in a platinum mine.The same year, at least 82 people digging illegally in an disused gold mine shaft died when a fire broke out underground.Throughout the 20th century, an estimated 69,000 people died South Africas mining industry, according to a government-sponsored commission of inquiry.But the number of fatal accidents has fallen sharply in recent years.According to union figures, 112 people died in the mines in 2012.The gold industry has over the past five years improved its health and safety standards tremendously, and for such an incident to occur is obviously a setback, said Shabangu.Doornkop is a single-shaft mine, which operates up to two kilometres down on the Kimberley and South Reefs. The mine produced 3,631 kilogrammes of gold in 2013.The Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed firm is Africas third largest gold producer, with operations also in Papua New Guinea.South Africas gold mining has steadily decreased over the past 40 years, sliding from top global producer to world number six.The country produced 167,235 kilogrammes of gold in 2012.

Syria, UN in 'Homs aid deal' as Aleppo fighting hots up


DAMASCUS (AFP) - Syria and the UN have struck an aid deal for besieged areas of Homs, officials said Thursday, as more than 250 people were reported killed in six days of barrel-bomb attacks in Aleppo.Also in northern Syria, rebels seized control of most of Aleppos central prison, freeing hundreds of detainees, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.A week after peace talks in Geneva at which the situation in besieged districts of the city of Homs was discussed, state news agency SANA said an agreement has been reached to allow aid in and safe passage out for civilians.Homs governor Talal al-Barazi and UN resident coordinator Yaacoub El Hillo have reached an agreement securing the exit of innocent civilians from the Old City (of Homs) and the entrance of humanitarian assistance for civilians who choose to stay, SANA said.There had previously been no deal on the exit of men, or the entry of much-needed aid into the city, where activists say some 3,000 people have been surviving on little more than olives for weeks.According to SANA, the relevant Syrian authorities will implement the deal by providing the necessary humanitarian assistance, including food, shelter and medical aid for innocent civilians who leave the besieged districts. It added that food, medicine and other assistance will be sent in for civilians who choose to stay in the neighbourhoods.Rebel-held Old City districts of central Homs have also come under near-daily shelling ever since the army blockaded them in June 2012.Abu Ziad, an activist in a besieged area, told AFP via the Internet that the families are ready to leave. Many of them want to leave.Among the besieged are at least 1,200 women, children and elderly people, according to the Britain-based Observatory.Activists have frequently highlighted the plight of new mothers trapped in the siege, as being unable to breastfeed their infants as a result of their own malnutrition.In Aleppo, more than 250 people have been killed in regime barrel bomb attacks, said the Observatory, as a coalition of rebels announced a new military operation in the province.The Islamic Front -- a huge alliance grouping tens of thousands of rebels -- and the jihadist Al-Nusra Front announced an operation dubbed Truthful Promise Approaches, a reference to a passage in the Koran.The announcement comes as the Syrian army seeks to take territory in the rebel-held eastern part of Aleppo city.Troops are moving in from areas around Aleppo international airport after recapturing territory nearby and reopening it to air traffic.The ground campaign has been accompanied by six consecutive days of aerial attacks involving explosive-packed barrel bombs dropped from army helicopters.The Observatory said that at least 257 people have been killed in barrel bomb attacks on eastern Aleppo since Saturday, including 11 on Thursday.The dead include at least 76 children, according to the group.Hundreds more have been wounded in the raids using the controversial unguided munitions, which have been condemned by rights groups as indiscriminate.The heavy casualty toll has sparked a mass exodus from the worst-hit neighbourhoods in the east of the city.Once the countrys economic hub, Aleppo has been divided between government control in the west and rebel control in the east since a rebel offensive in mid-2012.Suicide attack starts prison assaultJust outside the city, rebels and jihadists on Thursday seized control of most of Aleppos central prison after months of fighting, freeing hundreds of detainees, the Observatory said.State television denied the report, saying soldiers and security forces had thwarted an attack against the prison by terrorist groups.Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP that Islamic Front member Ahrar al-Sham and (Al-Qaeda affiliate) Al-Nusra Front have taken control of 80 percent of Aleppo central prison and freed hundreds of prisoners.The advance came after a suicide attack carried out by an Al-Nusra fighter at the prisons main entrance.An Ahrar al-Sham fighter, meanwhile, told AFP on condition of anonymity that the clashes were continuing.The fighting is ongoing. We have taken control of one of the prison buildings and brought down the regime flag, he said via Skype.

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