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World in Brief: 01/05/14

UKRAINE: The board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)approved a $17 billion loan package to Ukraine today. 

The two-year deal came with strings tied to economic reforms in Ukraine that could mean misery for Ukrainian households.

When the IMF pledged assistance in March, it demanded that Ukraine raise taxes, freeze the minimum wage and raise energy prices as a requirement of the aid.

As part of the deal, Ukraine will be required to use some of the loan to repay money it already owes the IMF.

 

US: A gas explosion at a jail in Pensacola, Florida, has injured more than 100 inmates and prison officers.

The blast happened at about 11pm yesterday in Escambia County jail’s booking facility and caused the building to partially collapse. About 600 inmates were in the building at the time.

The jail suffered extensive flooding during heavy rains that drenched the region on Tuesday and Wednesday.

 

AFGHANISTAN: A militant attack on a security post in eastern Afghanistan has killed four policemen.

The Khost provincial government said that two members of the national police and two border police died in the attack the previous night in Ali Shir district.

Three militants were killed in the battle and one was captured in a battle for the post that lasted two hours. 

The attackers were from the Haqqani network, a Pakistan-based militant group aligned with both the Taliban and al-Qaida.

 

MOROCCO: The government announced a 10 per cent increase in the minimum wage over the next year.

The move follows a year of acrimonious relations between trade unions and the government over its austerity programme.

On April 6, thousands marched in the economic capital of Casablanca, protesting against government efforts to cut pensions and subsidies.

Government spokesman Mustafa Khalfi announced the 10 per cent increase on yesterday night.

The public-sector minimum wage will be raised to $370 a month.

 

BRUNEI: The government today embraced a form of Islamic shariah criminal law that includes harsh penalties.

It began phasing in a version of Shariah that allows for penalties such as amputation for theft and stoning for adultery. 

Most of the punishments can be applied to non-Muslims, who account for about a third of the 440,000 people in the country.

Reactionary Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah declared the law a “great achievement” for Brunei.

Human Rights Watch said the move was a “huge step backward for human rights.”

 

ISRAEL: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today that he plans to promote legislation that will enshrine the country’s status as a Jewish state.

Mr Netanyahu said it was time for “the most basic element of our national lives to have legislative standing.”

Netanyahu’s intentions look to further undermine Middle East peace efforts. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says such an endorsement would undermine the rights of Palestinian refugees.

 

SPAIN: Around 700 African migrants rushed barbed-wire border fences in the North African enclave of Melilla today and although police turned back many, 140 managed to enter Spanish territory.

The migrants charged the fences in two waves, with 500 arriving in the early hours and another 200 later in the morning. Spanish and Moroccan border police forces were deployed to repell them but were overwhelmed.

More than 150 people remain perched atop an outside border fence yesterday, fending off police.

 

CUBA: Cuba and the European Union today closed a first round of talks on normalising relations after agreeing on a road map for further discussions.

EU official Christian Leffler said the talks established the structure for future talks and “the principal elements to be included.”

Leffler says talks have not yet touched on the EU so-called “Common Position” of 1996, which has driven policy toward the island and bars full co-operation between Europe and Havana.

Cuba says it is open to talking about any issue.

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