World briefs: 7/6/12
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BEIRUT -- Violence in Syria has surged to an "unprecedented level," the chief of the U.N. observer mission said Wednesday, as reports surfaced of the most high-profile defection to date from the security forces of President Bashar Assad.
Gen. Robert Mood, who heads the U.N. observer team in Syria, painted a grim picture of a nation where both sides in the escalating conflict seem determined to use force and evince little appetite for compromise or dialogue.
The comments from the Norwegian general are the latest indication that the situation in Syria is spiraling toward all-out civil war -- with ominous sectarian undercurrents -- as diplomatic efforts have failed to produce any prospect for peace.
Meanwhile, multiple reports were circulating Wednesday that a high-ranking military commander and longtime Assad associate had left Syria and had defected to the opposition.
There was no official confirmation of the reported defection of Manaf Tlas, a brigadier in Syria's Republican Guard.
MOSCOW -- Sanctions on Iran are bolstering oil revenues for its ally Russia as refiners seeking replacement supplies trigger the biggest rally in Urals crude since President Vladimir Putin first came to power.
Urals, the benchmark export grade of the world's biggest oil producer, surged by $1.35 a barrel last week, its steepest advance since September 2000. The European Union, Iran's largest customer after China, halted imports from the Islamic republic four days ago in an effort to contain its nuclear program, requiring buyers in the region to source high-sulfur, or sour, crude from other producers such as Russia.
LE BOURGET, France -- French investigators' final report on the 2009 crash of an Air France jet that killed 228 people portrays a cockpit rapidly consumed by confusion and unable to decode a welter of alarms to determine which flight readings could be trusted, with one pilot's apparent reliance on a faulty display cementing the plane into its fatal stall.
There was a "profound loss of understanding" among all three pilots of Air France Flight 447, an Airbus A330 en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, about what was happening after ice crystals threw off the plane's airspeed sensors and the autopilot disconnected, the report released by the Bureau of Investigation and Analysis said.
CHAMAN, Pakistan -- Trucks carrying NATO supplies rolled into Afghanistan for the first time in more than seven months Thursday, ending a painful chapter in U.S.-Pakistan relations that saw the border closed until Washington apologized for an airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Pakistan closed the routes in retaliation for the U.S. airstrikes in November that killed two dozen border troops.
STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- Swedish prostitutes have won the right to claim benefits, including sick days and parental leave, bringing their social security closer to that of other taxpayers.
"As long as sex workers pay their taxes, they should have the same access to sick-leave benefits and parental leave as anybody else," Joakim Jarnryd, a director at the Stockholm- based Swedish Social Insurance Agency said Thursday. "We don't make any moral judgments."
In Sweden, selling sex is legal. Even so, buying their services isn't legal, and customers run the risk of fines or imprisonment for as long as six months.
-- Compiled from news services
First Published July 6, 2012 1:15 am