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Romania prime minister resigns, spy chief takes over

BUCHAREST — Romania’s spy chief was appointed prime minister on Monday after the centre-right government resigned following wide protests over austerity cuts. “The ruling coalition agreed to appoint Mihai Razvan Ungureanu as prime minister designate”, president Traian Basescu Basescu said in a public address. Ungureanu now has 10 days to…

Italian professor launches challenge to Google

ROME — An Italian computer science professor whose research helped inspire Google launched a new search engine and social media network on Monday that he hopes will challenge the US technology giant. The new site entitled “Volunia” allows users to view the components of particular websites to find the subject…

Obama to host dinner to honor Iraq sacrifices

WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle will host a special White House dinner later this month to honor veterans of the Iraq war, two months after the last US troops left for home. The event will take place on February 29 and include servicemen and women…

Scientists cautious over Russia’s Antarctic lake drilling

PARIS — Experts on Monday raised questions over the scientific benefit and environmental impact of Russia’s feat in drilling into a virgin lake under Antarctica’s icesheet. Kerosene, which the Russians used as antifreeze to prevent the borehole from closing up in the extremely cold depths of the icesheet, was a…

U.S. says Palestinian deal ‘internal’ matter

WASHINGTON — The United States Monday remained on the sidelines over a deal signed between Hamas and Fatah to end a long-running discord between rival Palestinian movements, saying it was an internal affair. “As we’ve said many times, questions of Palestinian reconciliation are an internal matter for Palestinians,” said US…

Obama approval soars to 50 percent on jobs figures

WASHINGTON — Boosted by rising US jobs figures, President Barack Obama’s approval rating has hit the magical 50-percent mark and he has opened up a double-digit lead over his likely Republican opponent in November, a poll showed Monday. The poll by the Washington Post and ABC television found Obama reaching…

U.S. closes Syria embassy, pulls out all staff

The United States closed its embassy in Syria and pulled out remaining staff on Monday over serious security concerns as President Bashar al-Assad’s regime intensified its bloody crackdown. US President Barack Obama stressed it was important to resolve the ongoing conflict diplomatically, framing it as very different from the situation…

25 killed in Syria as troops pound Homs

Syrian forces on Monday pounded the powderkeg city of Homs with rockets and mortars, killing 25 people and wounding scores amid outrage over a Russia-China veto of a UN resolution to stop the violence. In Homs, upwards of 17 civilians were killed and dozens wounded as security forces renewed their…

Shaken by rallies, Putin says Russian society maturing

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, facing an outburst of protest against his rule, called Monday for an update of Russia’s political system in response to what he said was a maturing civil society. “We need to create a political system where people can and must speak the truth,” Putin said in…

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II marks 60 years on throne

Queen Elizabeth II renewed her vow to serve on Monday as she made a deliberately low-key start to five months of diamond jubilee celebrations marking her 60 years on the throne. Six decades since the sudden death of her father King George VI on February 1952 made the young princess…

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