Snow continues to cause Europe travel chaos

A British Airways aircraft lands as another taxis for take off at Heathrow Airport in west London December 21, 2010. Snow and freezing temperatures continued to ground flights to and from Britain on Tuesday, with travellers hoping to get away for Christmas likely to suffer delays and cancellations for several more days. REUTERS/Toby Melville

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December 21, 2010.  London (KATAKAMI / CNN) — Snow and nasty weather continued to blast Europe, stalling train travel and extending the nightmare for many trying to travel by road and air.

Heavy snowfall halted all plane travel at the Frankfurt airport in Germany Tuesday for a short time, said Thomas Uber, an airport spokesman.

“The problem is that we clear a runway and right after the snowplow has gone over it, it is full of snow again because there is so much coming down,” Uber said.

Hundreds of flights were affected and the closure caused massive delays, Uber said.

At London’s Heathrow Airport, Britain’s busiest, officials said only a third of scheduled flights were likely to operate Tuesday. One runway was closed, said an airport official.

London’s Gatwick Airport said the airport had reopened Tuesday but still 32 flights had been cancelled. The flights were cancelled mostly because of problems at other airports, an official said. Despite the cancellations, Gatwick was scheduled have more than 600 flights at the airport.

The snow had also hampered high-speed train travel, Eurostar spokeswoman Mary Walsh said.

“Due to the continuing bad weather, speed restrictions are in place on our high speed lines, adding up to two hours to journey times. As a result we can not operate as many trains as planned,” said Walsh.

CNN meteorologist Ivan Cabrera said Europe may soon get a respite on the snow that has been hitting the area for days. The snow should taper off and the next storm that will hit Europe will be mostly rain, Cabrera said.  (*)

President Ahmadinejad congratulates Lukashenko on re-election

FILE : Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

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December 21, 2010 (KATAKAMI / PRESIDENT.IR) — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad extended a message of congratulations to his Belarusian counterpart on his re-election.

President Ahmadinejad in his message hoped Tehran and Minsk will strengthen their growing relations and expand bilateral cooperation in the international arenas.

Dr.Ahmadinejad further hoped prosperity and success for the Belarusian nation and government.

Russia, India urge dialogue on Iran nuclear programme

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev (L) shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after a signing of agreements ceremony in New Delhi December 21, 2010. Russia and India signed agreements on Tuesday to work on a design project for a fifth-generation fighter aircraft and expand capacity at the nuclear power plant in Kudankulam. REUTERS/B Mathur

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December 21, 2010. NEW DELHI (KATAKAMI / TheEconomicTimes) — Indian and Russian leaders agreed on Tuesday that the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme should be resolved through dialogue, a joint statement said.

Indian Prime Minister Manhomahn Singh and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev also agreed Iran had a right to peaceful nuclear energy. Medvedev is on a two-day visit to India.

Russia and India signed agreements on Tuesday to work on a design project for a fifth-generation fighter aircraft and expand capacity at the nuclear power plant in Kudankulam .

The two countries agreed to build the third and fourth generating units for the nuclear power plant in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu, according to a statement.

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev speaks during a joint news conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi December 21, 2010. Russia and India signed agreements on Tuesday to work on a design project for a fifth-generation fighter aircraft and expand capacity at the nuclear power plant in Kudankulam. REUTERS/B Mathur

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Tuesday he supports India’s quest for a permanent seat at an expanded United Nations Security Council.

India has long sought a permanent seat at the UN Security Council , a bid which has been endorsed by the United States and France. China has only given a lukewarm response. Medvedev was speaking, alongside Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh , during a news conference at the start of a two-day visit to India.  (*)

Photostream : Russian President Dmitry Medvedev meets Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrive for a meeting in New Delhi on December 21, 2010. President Dmitry Medvedev arrived in India on December 21, the latest in a long line of global leaders seeking military and trade deals with the world's second-fastest-growing major economy. Traditionally India's default defence supplier, Russia now faces stiff competition from Europe and the United States as India diversifies its sources of military hardware and becomes more demanding over pricing and quality. AFP PHOTO/RAVEENDRAN (Photo credit should read RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrive for a meeting in New Delhi on December 21, 2010. President Dmitry Medvedev arrived in India on December 21, the latest in a long line of global leaders seeking military and trade deals with the world's second-fastest-growing major economy. Traditionally India's default defence supplier, Russia now faces stiff competition from Europe and the United States as India diversifies its sources of military hardware and becomes more demanding over pricing and quality. AFP PHOTO/RAVEENDRAN (Photo credit should read RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a meeting in New Delhi on December 21, 2010. President Dmitry Medvedev arrived in India on December 21, the latest in a long line of global leaders seeking military and trade deals with the world's second-fastest-growing major economy. Traditionally India's default defence supplier, Russia now faces stiff competition from Europe and the United States as India diversifies its sources of military hardware and becomes more demanding over pricing and quality. AFP PHOTO/RAVEENDRAN (Photo credit should read RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian President Medvedev in India, deals worth billions to be signed

 

December 21, 2010 New Delhi (KATAKAMI / NDTV) — Russian President Dimitry Medvedev arrived in India earlier today. He will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Delhi today where deals worth billions of dollars are expected in civil nuclear energy and defence.

Like US and France, Moscow has also expressed concerns with the nuclear liability law which also holds suppliers responsible for an accident.

The Russians are currently building two reactors in Tamil Nadu and are expected to sign a general framework agreement for two more nuclear power plants in the state.

The big defence agreement on the table is a deal for the 5th generation stealth fighter aircraft which the two countries are jointly developing. The deal is worth 30 billion dollars.

Agreements are also expected in the space sector.  (*)

Photostream : Britain's Prince Andrew Visits Troops in Afghanistan

His Royal Highness the Duke of York (Britain's Prince Andrew) has visited the Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team in Lashkar Gah as part of a visit to southern Afghanistan, December 19, 2010. During the visit, the Duke of York heard about the Team’s work, alongside British military effort, to support security and stability in the Province. Speaking about the visit, Mr Leo Tomlin, acting Deputy of Head of Mission at the Provincial Reconstruction Team said: "I know colleagues were delighted that the Duke of York was able to visit and hear about our work. The work being undertaken by civilians here, often in quite difficult conditions, continues to play a critical part in putting Helmand, and wider Afghanistan, on a secure and stable footing. The Duke was pleased to see the visible signs of steady progress across all areas of security, governance and development from when he visited last year."

The Duke of York (Britain's Prince Andrew), right, made a surprise visit to British troops across Afghanistan (December 19, 2010) as more than 10,000 servicemen and women prepared to spend Christmas away from home. The Duke flew into Camp Bastion in Helmand province on Thursday evening and met personnel from the Fleet Air Arm, of which he is Commodore-in-Chief. After spending the night in Camp Bastion, the Duke viewed Apache, Merlin and Chinook helicopters with Lieutenant Colonel Mike Smith from the Joint Helicopter Force yesterday. He later visited the main field hospital at Camp Bastion. The Duke, who is Colonel-in-Chief of the Yorkshire Regiment, met soldiers and officers from the 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment, and watched a display of counter-IED (improvised explosive device) drills. 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment is currently in Afghanistan as part of an operation to help mentor troops from the Afghan National Army.

Rallying the troops: Among the places the Duke of York toured was the Sea King helicopter hangar in Camp Bastion, where he met personnel from the Fleet Air Arm and Royal Navy. The Duke of York donned full military gear as he flew into Afghanistan to rally the troops over the weekend. Wearing a beret and desert camouflage, Prince Andrew arrived in Camp Bastion, Helmand Province, on Saturday and stayed overnight at the base. His Royal Highness toured military bases on his brief trip, before meeting members of The Royal Irish Regiment and 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Talking to the troops: The Duke of York meets Airmen from the 1419 Flight, Royal Air Force.

Photostream : Christmas at Number 10

Christmas at Number 10 : Reindeer out side Number 10 where they were part of a Christmas party to entertain families of British servicemen and women. December 20, 2010 (Photo : Number 10.Gov.UK)

Christmas at Number 10 : Reindeer out side Number 10 where they were part of a Christmas party to entertain families of British servicemen and women. December 20, 2010

Christmas at Number 10 : Snow at the entrance to Number 10

FILE : Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, second right, with his wife Samantha, in white coat, and children who have won competitions on childrens TV pose for the cameras as the Downing Street Christmas lights are turned on outside No 10 Downing street, in London, Wednesday, Dec., 8, 2010. (AP Photo / Alastair Grant)

FILE : Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (C) and his wife Samantha join children's television programme 'Blue Peter' competition winners to switch on the Christmas Tree lights in Downing Street in London December 8, 2010. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

FILE : Samantha Cameron, the wife of Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, helps to wrap one of 150,000 Christmas presents at the Salvation Army headquarters in Southwark, London December 6, 2010. The presents will be given to to underprivileged familes in Britain at Christmas. REUTERS/David Parker/Pool

Medvedev to push for military, nuclear deals in India

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

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December 21, 2010. NEW DELHI – RUSSIAN (KATAKAMI / The Straits Times) — President Dmitry Medvedev arrives in India on Tuesday, the latest in a line of visiting global leaders seeking military and trade deals with the world’s second-fastest growing major economy.

Traditionally India’s default defence supplier, Russia now faces stiff competition from Europe and the United States as India diversifies its sources of military hardware and becomes more demanding over pricing and quality.

‘The Russians are uncomfortable with the changing scenario and Medvedev needs to convince India why Moscow should remain our regular defence provider,’ said retired Indian Army general and military scholar Afsir Karim.

Mr Medvedev’s lobbying trip comes hard on the heels of similar visits by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, as well as US President Barack Obama.

All three announced deals and framework agreements worth billions of dollars, and the Russian president will also be looking to seal key accords on the supply of military fighter jets and the construction of nuclear power stations.

In an interview published in the Times of India on Monday, Mr Medvedev said he viewed the growing competition for India’s booming defence market with ‘serenity and pragmatism’. ‘We are ready to compete, the main point being that the fight for contracts is fair,’ he said. — AFP

PM David Cameron lights up Olympic Stadium

The Olympic Stadium floodlights are officially switched on by Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, left, watched by London Mayor, Boris Johnson, right, at the Olympic Park in Stratford, London, Monday Dec. 20, 2010. Prime Minister Cameron pushed a button that switched on the towering floodlights over the snow-covered stadium in east London on Monday evening. London Mayor Boris Johnson, Olympic organizing chief Sebastian Coe and dozens of local schoolchildren were among those attending the ceremony in freezing temperatures inside the mostly empty 80,000-capacity stadium. (AP Photo/Rebecca Naden, Pool)

 

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December 21, 2010 (KATAKAMI / NUMBER10.GOV.UK) — Prime Minister David Cameron has joined local school children to officially turn on the lights at the Olympic Stadium for first time.

At the flagship venue in Stratford, the PM and school children from a number of East London schools were joined by members of the Olympic Park workforce and the local community.

Mr Cameron said that it was a real honour to turn on the floodlights for the first time.

 

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron delivers a speech after switching on the floodlights of the Olympic stadium at the Olympic park in Stratford, east London December 20, 2010. REUTERS/Rebecca Naden/Pool

He added:

“Today we’re shining a light on this stadium and the brilliant work that’s been done on the Olympic Park so far. In 2012 a light will shine on all of our country as billions look on. I want the world to see that Britain is a confident, forward-looking country – a great place to live, work, invest and do business.”

The stadium itself is lit by over 532 individual floodlights housed in 15 towers suspended 70 meters above the field of play – in order to meet the high definition TV standards required.

The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) has also announced that the installation of the spectator seats has been completed in the Stadium, ensuring that the venue remains on track to be finished more than a year before the Games in the summer of 2012.

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt said:

“London’s Olympic Stadium is breathtaking. Seeing it lit up, like it will be for 2012 and beyond, is incredibly exciting. The switching on of the lights is a huge milestone in our preparations for what will be a fantastic Games in 2012.” (*)

Photostream : Russian President Dmitry Medvedev meets Latvian President Valdis Zatlers

Russian First Lady Svetlana Medvedeva (left), Russian President Dmitry Medvedev shakes hands with his Latvian counterpart Valdis Zatlers and First Lady Lilita Zatlere, as they meet in Moscow's Kremlin, Monday, Dec. 20, 2010. Photo : Kremlin.Ru

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev (2nd L) with his wife Svetlana (L) welcomes his counterpart from Latvia, Valdis Zatlers (R) with his wife Lilita in Moscow, December 20, 2010. Photo : Kremlin.Ru

Latvian First Lady Lilita Zatlere (left), President Valdis Zatlers, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his wife Svetlana Medvedeva, in Moscow, December 20, 2010. Photo : Kremlin.Ru

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev (R) and his counterpart from Latvia, Valdis Zatlers attend a news conference in Moscow, December 20, 2010. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev (R) welcomes his counterpart from Latvia, Valdis Zatlers in Moscow, December 20, 2010. REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA Novosti/Pool

Dmitry Medvedev's Interview to The Times of India newspaper

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev

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December 21, 2010 (KATAKAMI/ KREMLIN.RU) — QUESTION: What are the priorities in your country’s relations with India? What will be the main subjects for your talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh?

PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA DMITRY MEDVEDEV: The strategic partnership between India and Russia marked its tenth anniversary this year. Today, we can rightfully call it a privileged partnership, as it is characterised by our close interaction in international affairs as well as by large-scale and multifaceted trade, economic, scientific, technological and humanitarian ties.

High technology is at the top of our agenda. An integrated programme of cooperation in the areas of science, technology and innovation for the period to 2020 will be signed during the visit. Major cooperation areas are energy, including nuclear energy, metallurgy, oil and gas production, transportation and outer space exploration. We have identified a number of long-term projects in these areas.

Cultural and humanitarian exchanges are important as well. A Festival of Indian Culture is scheduled to be held in Russia in 2011, while a Festival of Russian Culture in India will take place in 2012.

All the above subjects will be discussed with Prime Minister Singh.

QUESTION: Taking into account Russia’s current discussions with Pakistan and Tajikistan on possible ways of Afghan settlement, what do you think of their possible outcome? Will India play a part in addressing this issue? Will our deepening cooperation in combating terrorism make any sense in this regard?

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: You probably mean the Quartet comprising Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia and Tajikistan, which was formed at the initiative of Tajikistani President Emomali Rahmon in 2009.

At the second four-party summit in Sochi this August we decided to launch a mechanism for holding four-party interagency consultations in three sectors: those involving foreign ministers, foreign trade and counter-narcotics agencies. During the past four months, the Quartet has held meetings on all three thematic areas and reconfirmed its commitment to continuing cooperation.

We believe that this format is primarily an element of cooperation within the SCO, possibly involving other important regional players with India being undoubtedly one of them.

We expect that the four-party meetings will result in agreements on specific projects. The CASA-1000 project can be one of them; it provides for the construction of electricity transmission lines from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan and Pakistan. This work should be expanded in the future, involving our SCO partners in the four-party format.

Building a gas pipeline connecting Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India also responds to the region’s economic development needs. We are considering the possibility of Russia’s participation in this project. In my opinion, this initiative fully corresponds with the spirit of the present times and the priorities of regional cooperation. Russian companies operating in pipelines construction have necessary expertise, logistical resources and highly skilled personnel to build this pipeline.

Settlement in Afghanistan is high on the agenda of the India-Russia Joint Working Group on Combating International Terrorism and the Joint Coordination Group of Security Councils of the two countries, which have recently held meetings in Moscow and New Delhi. These bodies regularly exchange information on Afghanistan and discuss issues such as combating terrorist threats, illicit drug trafficking and money laundering. Almost all security agencies of our states participate in these efforts.

Anti-terrorist cooperation with New Delhi is advancing at international forums as well. We appreciate India’s support for Russia’s draft of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, which entered into force in July 2007. In turn, we are doing our best to promote a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism sponsored by India.

QUESTION: Will the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill adopted in India impede further Russian-Indian cooperation on peaceful uses of nuclear energy? What are further plans for our cooperation in this area?

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Nuclear energy cooperation is an important element of our relations.

Russia has an established reputation in this segment of India’s market. A solid legal framework for bilateral cooperation has been established. In particular, we are implementing the intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in construction of additional nuclear power plant units at Kudankulam site, as well as on construction of Russia-designed nuclear power plants at new sites which was signed in 2008.

As for civil liability for nuclear damage, it is regulated by Vienna Convention of 1963, and we seek to solve the relevant problems in a constructive way through negotiations with our Indian partners.

QUESTION: India and Russia have a plan to jointly launch a spacecraft to the moon. What progress has been achieved in that area of cooperation? When will the Chandrayaan-2 artificial lunar satellite reach the moon’s orbit? And what are the areas where Russia, which has a great outer space experience, collaborates with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)?

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Our cooperation with India in exploration and peaceful uses of outer space has a long history. Suffice it to recall the first Indian astronaut Rakesh Sharma made his spaceflight as a crew member of Soyuz T-11 as early as 1984.

Our countries have come a long way since then. Today, India has its own space launch site and is able to launch artificial satellites all by itself. However, we continue to collaborate in this area. The Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft project that you mentioned is carried out within the framework of the agreement between the ISRO and the Russian Federal Space Agency on joint lunar exploration. The parties have agreed recently to add an Indian mini moon rover to the spacecraft which is to be launched in 2013.

We continue to cooperate in the area of human space flights as well. As far as I know, the Indian side is particularly interested in the Russian components for life-support and thermal control systems to be used at Indian spacecraft.

As part of the agreement between the ISRO and the Russian Federal Space Agency on cooperation in solar physics, we launched last year the CORONAS-Photon spacecraft.

The exploration of outer space makes it possible not only to carry out important scientific research but also to implement commercially viable programmes. The latter include undoubtedly joint use of the Russia-designed GLONASS satellite navigation system. The matter to address is now to launch production of equipment for end-users, and for this purpose we intend to set up a joint venture with India.

QUESTION: Military and technical links between Russia and India are very important. Today, many Western countries seek to develop military and technical contacts with India. Do you think it will affect our bilateral cooperation?

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Similar to Russia, India has been pursuing a multi-track foreign policy and has been maintaining ties with numerous countries, including military and technical ties. It is only natural that the Western producers of arms and military equipment are interested in cooperating with India as well. We treat this with serenity and pragmatism. We are ready to compete, the main point being that competition for contracts should be fair and in line with the rules.

In general, the military and technical cooperation between Russia and India has been developing steadily. Our long-term links in this sphere are maintained in strict conformity with the international obligations of both countries, they are transparent and aimed at ensuring India’s defense capability without challenging the existing military and strategic balance in the South Asia region.

Cooperation between the armed forces is another important area. Our mutual interest in such cooperation was proved by the INDRA-2010 joint military exercise held between October 15 and 24, 2010 in the Indian state of Uttarakhand.

***

We have had a purely businesslike and substantive conversation. I would like to add that Russia cherishes its traditional friendship with India and we highly appreciate our cooperation record and clearly see possibilities for further expanding it.

My visit is scheduled to take place shortly before the New Year 2011, therefore I extend my sincere wishes of happiness and well-being to the readers of your newspaper, as well as to all people of India.

Iraqi Prime Minister Announces Cabinet Choices

 

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki, left, arrives to attend the Iraqi parliament session in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Dec. 20, 2010

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December 20, 2010 (KATAKAMI / VOA) — Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki, left, arrives to attend the Iraqi parliament session in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Dec. 20, 2010

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki submitted a list of his new Cabinet members late Monday, putting Iraqis one step closer to a new government after a 9-month political stalemate.

Iraq’s Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi announced he had received a list of 42 ministers and top government posts.  He said parliament will vote on the new ministers on Tuesday.

Mr. Maliki submitted 13 “acting ministers” to fill his list until permanent choices were agreed upon.  Temporary members will fill Iraq’s top three security posts.

Late last month, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani asked Mr. Maliki to form a new government as part of a deal to end the political stalemate after inconclusive elections.  Mr. Talabani gave the prime minister 30 days to choose a new Cabinet.

The Cabinet announcement comes a day after former prime minister Ayad Allawi said he will join Mr. Maliki’s coalition government.

Mr. Talabani’s request followed a power-sharing agreement among Iraq’s Shi’ite, Kurdish and Sunni political leaders that put Mr. Maliki, a Shi’ite, on track for a second term as prime minister.

Mr. Allawi’s Iraqiya coalition won two more seats than Mr. Maliki’s State of Law coalition in the March 7 elections, but neither won enough for a parliamentary majority.

Mr. Allawi said Sunday he has agreed to accept a job in the government as head of a newly created strategic policy council that will limit Mr. Maliki’s authority on various issues.  But he warned that his support could end if there is any change to the current power-sharing deal. (*)

At least seven killed, hundreds injured in Iran quake

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December 20, 2010 (KATAKAMI / Reuters) – At least seven people were killed in a 6.5-magnitude earthquake that jolted southeastern Iranon Monday, damaging buildings in outlying mountainous areas, the region’s governor said.

“Seven people have been killed and hundreds have been injured. Hundreds of people are still trapped under the rubbles,” Esmail Najjar, governor of Iran’s Kerman province, the center of the quake, told the semi-official Mehr news agency.

State television said at least three villages had been destroyed.

The U.S. Geological Survey put the quake’s magnitude at 6.3.

The official IRNA news agency said nine aftershocks had hit since the main quake, including one of magnitude 5. Telephone lines had been cut.

Mohammad Javad Kamyab, an employee of Kerman province governor’s office, told Reuters there were 30 villages in the quake-hit area.

“These villages are not heavily populated…We are not expecting a high death toll and so far 25 people have been injured,” he said.

Another local official said access to the damaged villages “was very difficult.”

“Rescue teams have been dispatched to the quake-hit area … and are communicating via walkie-talkies,” Hossein Baqeri, head of Iran’s National Crisis Management unit, told state television.

The semi-official Fars news agency said the quake was also felt in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“Many people left their houses in the city of Zahedan … It was also felt in the towns of Bam, Khash and Iranshahr,” Fars reported.

Ali Reza, a resident of Bam, told Reuters by telephone: “There was no damage in the city of Bam but we felt the quake.”

The province of Kerman is highly prone to earthquakes. Some 31,000 people were killed when an earthquake razed Bam in 2003.

Kerman is not one of the oil-producing regions of Iran, the world’s fourth-biggest crude exporter. Iran is criss-crossed by major faultlines and is frequently hit by earthquakes.

In 2008 a magnitude 6.1 quake struck the southern port of Bandar Abbas, killing at least seven people and injuring 40.

An official in the governor’s office of Kerman province told Reuters by telephone: “The quake-hit area is a deserted area.”

State television, quoting an unnamed local Red Crescent official, said: “In some rural parts of the region … the quake has caused heavy damage to buildings, especially in Hosseinabad village, where the houses were made of earthen bricks.”  (*)



Earthquake Strikes Southeast Iran

 

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December 20, 2010. TEHRAN (KATAKAMI / THE NEW YORK TIMES / Reuters) — At least seven people were killed in a 6.5-magnitude earthquake that jolted southeastern Iran on Monday, damaging buildings in outlying mountainous areas, the region’s governor said.

“Seven people have been killed and hundreds have been injured. Hundreds of people are still trapped under the rubbles,” Esmail Najjar, governor of Iran’s Kerman province, the center of the quake, told the semi-official Mehr news agency.

State television said at least three villages had been destroyed.

The U.S. Geological Survey put the quake’s magnitude at 6.3.

The official IRNA news agency said nine aftershocks had hit since the main quake, including one of magnitude 5. Telephone lines had been cut.

Mohammad Javad Kamyab, an employee of Kerman province governor’s office, told Reuters there were 30 villages in the quake-hit area.

“These villages are not heavily populated…We are not expecting a high death toll and so far 25 people have been injured,” he said.

Another local official said access to the damaged villages “was very difficult.”

“Rescue teams have been dispatched to the quake-hit area … and are communicating via walkie-talkies,” Hossein Baqeri, head of Iran’s National Crisis Management unit, told state television.

The semi-official Fars news agency said the quake was also felt in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“Many people left their houses in the city of Zahedan … It was also felt in the towns of Bam, Khash and Iranshahr,” Fars reported.

Ali Reza, a resident of Bam, told Reuters by telephone: “There was no damage in the city of Bam but we felt the quake.”

The province of Kerman is highly prone to earthquakes. Some 31,000 people were killed when an earthquake razed Bam in 2003.

Kerman is not one of the oil-producing regions of Iran, the world’s fourth-biggest crude exporter. Iran is criss-crossed by major faultlines and is frequently hit by earthquakes.

In 2008 a magnitude 6.1 quake struck the southern port of Bandar Abbas, killing at least seven people and injuring 40.

An official in the governor’s office of Kerman province told Reuters by telephone: “The quake-hit area is a deserted area.”

State television, quoting an unnamed local Red Crescent official, said: “In some rural parts of the region … the quake has caused heavy damage to buildings, especially in Hosseinabad village, where the houses were made of earthen bricks.”  (*)

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