Europe jolted by weather extremes
An Arctic chill killed a dozen people in Poland and snarled traffic and halted flights across Europe, officials said Friday. The total number of people in Europe who have died of exposure in recent days rose to at least 40. Southeastern Europe, meanwhile, struggled with some of the worst flooding in a century. Entire villages in Montenegro were submerged by the rising waters, and Interior Minister Ivan Brajovic called the floods "unprecedented."
In many parts of Europe train services reported more heavy disruptions because of icy tracks, but air traffic was returning to normal. Britain's Gatwick Airport reopened after heavy snowfall forced a 48-hour closure, but its website warned of cancellations; London's Heathrow Airport was operating, but 45 arrivals and 25 departures were canceled; and the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris was again operating normally, but many areas of France faced traffic problems because of the snow.
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast
New edict sets up presidential standoff
Defying international observers and the country's own electoral commission, officials tied to President Laurent Gbagbo on Friday declared him the winner of a landmark election in this troubled West African nation, potentially setting the stage for the kind of violence and division that the long-awaited voting was supposed to prevent. The announcement, made by the Constitutional Council, came only a day after the country's top election official said Gbagbo's challenger, Alassane Ouattara, had won the election by a solid margin, 54.1 to 45.9 percent — a result the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon also endorsed on Friday.
Cholera could affect 650,000 in Haiti
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said Friday that the World Health Organization and the Pan-American Health Organization now estimate that the cholera epidemic in Haiti could affect as many as 650,000 people over the next six months. Reporting to the General Assembly, Ban also said that U.N. teams believe that the official numbers of 1,800 deaths and nearly 81,000 infected could be double that because of difficulties in reporting. He said there's an urgent need in Haiti for more cholera treatment centers and another 350 doctors, 2,000 nurses and 2,200 support staff to run them. He called on the world's nations to contribute more to the organization's appeal for $164 million to contain the outbreak, saying it's still only 20 percent funded.
SEOUL, South Korea
Official: North will pay for future attacks
South Korea's new defense chief threatened Friday that jets would bomb the North if it stages another attack like last week's deadly shelling as he outlined a tough new military policy toward the rival neighbor. President Lee Myung Bak's nominee, Kim Kwan Jin, told a parliamentary confirmation hearing that further North Korean aggression will result in airstrikes, with South Korea using all its combat capabilities to retaliate. The government has been criticized for its response to North Korea's Nov. 23 barrage on South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island. Kim was named defense minister last week after the North's attack killed four people.
IAEA board approves nuclear fuel bank
The 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency approved an IAEA-run repository for nuclear fuel on Friday, in a move meant to limit proliferation by reducing the incentive for starting domestic uranium enrichment programs. The new fuel bank, and one run by Russia that recently went into operation, are meant to strengthen the rationale for nations to seek fuel from outside sources instead of producing it domestically for civilian nuclear reactors. While 28 nations voted for establishment of the facility, six of those present — Venezuela, Tunisia, South Africa, Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina — abstained. Pakistan, meanwhile formally announced it would not take part in the voting.