World Briefs | North Korea touts missiles

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SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea claimed Tuesday to have missiles that can reach the U.S. mainland, and it said the recent agreement between Washington and the South Korean government to extend the range of South Korean ballistic missiles was increasing the risk of war on the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea has repeatedly launched rockets that U.S. and South Korean officials, as well as the U.N. Security Council, have condemned as a cover for developing and testing intercontinental ballistic missile technology. The North has insisted that the launches were intended to put satellites into orbit.

"These rocket tests mean that the North Koreans may have already acquired the missile range" that the North claimed to have Tuesday, said Jeung Young-tae, a military analyst at the government-run Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul.

On Sunday, South Korea announced that it had reached a deal with Washington that would allow it to nearly triple the range of its ballistic missiles to 500 miles to better cope with the North's growing missile and nuclear capabilities.

Protests greet Merkel

ATHENS, Greece -- With thousands of police reinforcements on duty to shield her from rowdy protesters who see her as the archvillain of the euro crisis and their national pain, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany was greeted by the Greek prime minister as "a friend of Greece" and tried to reassure the Greek people that she was here not "as a teacher, to give grades" but rather as "a real partner."

Not persuaded, furious Greeks held rallies and protests that included a job walkout by civil servants, including teachers and doctors.

Ms. Merkel's visit stands as the high point thus far of her recent efforts to show a renewed dedication to European solidarity after years of harsh words and increasingly strained relations within the European Union.

NATO warns Syria

BRUSSELS -- NATO is ready to defend Turkey, the alliance's top official said Tuesday, in a direct warning to Syria after a week of cross-border artillery and mortar exchanges dramatically escalated tensions between the two countries.

The comments by NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen were the strongest show of support to Turkey since the firing began Wednesday -- though the solidarity is largely symbolic.

Jihadists claim attack

BEIRUT -- A jihadist insurgent group that Western intelligence officials have linked to al-Qaida said Tuesday that its suicide bombers struck an intelligence compound on the outskirts of Damascus overnight. It was the second major attack in about a week claimed by the group on a government facility in one of Syria's main urban centers.

The Nusra Front attacks have highlighted a worrisome theme in the Syrian conflict, in which Sunni extremist groups, some with operational links to al-Qaida, are claiming responsibility for attacks on government targets, including suicide bombings, with increasing frequency.

Israel government disbanded

JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Tuesday night that he is disbanding his right-wing government and calling for early elections, blaming a coalition deadlock over how to slash nearly $4 billion from next year's budget.

New parliamentary elections, which were expected to take place in October 2013, will likely now occur by February.



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