Chemical arms use denied
The government yesterday denied accusations it had used chemical weapons against ethnic minority rebels in Kachin State. “Our military never uses chemical weapons and we have no intention to use them at all. I think the KIA [Kachin Independence Army] is accusing us wrongly,” presidential spokesman Ye Htut said. The rebels on Wednesday told reporters that the army had stepped up its operations in recent days, in a push toward the KIA stronghold of Laiza. “It is already three days [they have] used chemical weapons [and] they are able to occupy very important posts,” KIA spokesman James Lum Dau told reporters. He said there was an intense heat and soldiers “lost consciousness” when the shells exploded. Foreign media were not able to verify the claims.
Cold snap kills at least 80
A cold snap yesterday which saw temperatures drop to their lowest point since the nation gained independence has killed about 80 people, officials said. The weather office said the lowest temperature recorded was 3?C in the northern town of Syedpur and the Red Crescent said hospitals were packed with patients suffering respiratory illness. Shah Alam, deputy head of the weather office, said the last time the temperature had dropped below 3?C was in February 1968, when the country was still part of Pakistan. The Red Crescent Society said poor rural areas had been worst hit as many people could not afford warm clothing or heating.
Rare earths probe to begin
The government will launch a survey of its Pacific seabed with the hope of finding rare earth deposits large enough to supply its high-tech industries and reduce dependence on China, an official said yesterday. Researchers from the Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology will start the probe from Jan. 21 on the seabed near Minamitorishima Island, about 2,000km southeast of Tokyo, he said. Finding large-scale reserves inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone would be a boost to industry, which relies on imports from China. The survey follows an earlier finding by Tokyo University professor Yasuhiro Kato that indicate deposits amount to about 6.8 million tonnes of the valuable minerals, or 220 times the average annual amount used by industry.
Hamas, Fatah revive deal
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal have agreed to expedite a stalled reconciliation deal between the rival factions, a Hamas official said yesterday. The decision came at a meeting in Cairo that was the first in almost a year between the West Bank’s Fatah leader Abbas and Meshaal, who heads the Hamas movement that rules the Gaza Strip. Fatah and Hamas officials will meet soon to discuss further developments, Hamas politburo member Izzat al-Rishq told reporters, but did not give more details. On their visit to Cairo, Abbas and Meshaal also held separate talks with President Mohamed Morsi.
Rare snowstorm hits capital
The worst snowstorm in 20 years shut roads and schools in Jerusalem yesterday and along the region bordering Lebanon. Elisha Peleg, an official in charge of emergencies for the city told Israel Army Radio that10cm to 15cm of snow had piled up in the city center and more than that in outlying areas. A Gaza health official said a Palestinian man died after being electrocuted by a power cable snapped loose by the ferocious witner- winds.