Netanyahu to form coalition
President Shimon Peres asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday to form the next government, and Netanyahu pledged that his new administration would be committed to advancing peace talks with the Palestinians. Peres formally requested Netanyahu to build a governing coalition after conducting consultations with all 12 parties that won seats in last week’s election. A majority of newly elected lawmakers recommended Netanyahu as prime minister-designate. Netanyahu now has six weeks to form a coalition government, with an extension of 14 days if needed. Netanyahu said the government’s top priority should be to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon.
Banker had US$70m check
The newspaper Bild am Sonntag reports that a man caught last month trying to enter the country with a check worth about US$70 million was Iran’s former central bank chief. The weekly reports that customs officials at Duesseldorf Airport found the check in former Central Bank of Iran governor Tahmasb Mazaheri’s luggage on Jan. 21 upon his arrival from Turkey. Customs had issued a statement on Friday saying a check for 300 million Venezuelan Bolivars (US$69.86 million) issued by the Bank of Venezuela was found on an unnamed 59-year-old man. Bild am Sonntag said police and customs are investigating possible money laundering.
Space monkey fraud alleged
Tehran’s announcement that it had successfully sent a monkey into space stirred questions on the Internet on Saturday, with people pointing to differences between official images of the primate before takeoff and after landing. On Monday last week, official media published pictures of a monkey named Pishgam (“Pioneer”) prior to the launch. The animal had light gray fur and a red mole above its right eye. However, later, the ISNA news agency released photographs taken while presenting the monkey to the press after its landing, which showed darker fur and no mole. These differences have been pointed out by Western media, which have questioned the success of the monkey space mission. A previous attempt to send a primate into space failed in 2011. On Facebook, a comment underneath the monkey’s pictures reads: the monkey “went into space and met a doctor who removed its mole.” Authorities did not directly responded to these questions on Saturday night.
Missing US woman dead
A New York City woman who went missing while vacationing alone in Istanbul was found dead on Saturday, and police detained nine people for questioning in connection with the case, state-run Anadolu Agency said. Sarai Sierra, a 33-year-old mother of two, was last heard from on Jan. 21, the day she was to fly home. Her disappearance attracted a lot of interest in the country, where the disappearance of tourists is rare, and Istanbul police had set up a special unit to find her. Anadolu said the body of a woman was discovered on Saturday evening near the remnants of ancient city walls and that police later identified it as Sierra’s. The agency did not say what caused her death, but the private NTV television reported that she was stabbed to death, while a private news agency, Dogan, said she had a head wound, suggesting she may have been hit with an object. Police refused to comment on the case.
US defense exercises started