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AP Interview: Israeli minister predicts Assad will be ousted within 6 months

LE BOURGET, France – Israel’s defence minister predicted on Monday that Syrian President Bashar Assad will reach his “demise” within six months because he has lost his legitimacy during the crackdown on anti-government protests.

“It’s my personal judgment that Bashar Assad crossed the point of no return towards his demise,” Ehud Barack said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Since the uprising began in mid-March, activists say more than 1,400 Syrians have been killed and 10,000 detained as authorities try to maintain their grip on power. Despite international criticism, the crackdown has so far allowed the regime to ride out the nationwide wave of protests.

“(Assad) ended up using too much brutal force, too many graves have been dug and he lost practically his legitimacy in the eyes of the Syrian people,” Barak told the AP. “He probably will stay around for another quarter or two but that will not change his fate.”

Syria’s embattled president said Monday he would consider political reforms, including ending his Baath Party’s monopoly on power. In a televised speech, Assad acknowledged demands for reform were legitimate, but said “saboteurs” were exploiting the situation.

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Barak was speaking after opening the Israeli pavilion at the Paris Air Show, where Israel hopes to secure foreign orders for its Iron Dome missile defence system. Experts say the system is the first with a proven capability to intercept short-range rockets.

Barack said Israel was also in the final stages of testing the David’s Sling ballistic missile defence system, which would defend against medium-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles.

“Governments that are under direct threat of missiles and rockets should consider this,” he said. “This is something unique; nobody else has it.”

Israel’s defence and security firms have a particularly strong presence at this year’s air show, the world’s biggest.

Campaign to save N.L. marine rescue centre ramps up after deadly weekend

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – When the call came in Saturday that three fishermen were stranded on a rock ledge in Labrador, their small boat swallowed by rough seas, Merv Wiseman says he didn’t waste time looking at nautical charts.

The maritime search and rescue co-ordinator knew exactly where they were.

“I’ve been in Cape Harrison on the Labrador coast – a very remote area,” he said Monday as a campaign ramped up to save the marine rescue sub-centre in St. John’s, N.L., where Wiseman has worked since 1978.

“I didn’t even have to pull a chart. I knew the situation that was involved there, the kinds of terrain, the sea conditions and so on.

“You just simply don’t have time to lose.”

The three men were plucked from the cliff face in a helicopter rescue about five hours after they called for help.

Wiseman said two of 13 calls since Thursday ended in death for a man who went missing from a Dutch cargo vessel off Newfoundland’s southeast coast, and a fisherman whose small boat capsized near Harbour Grace, N.L.

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Union leaders gathered Monday with local and provincial politicians to announce a rally Saturday in St. John’s to protest Ottawa’s plan to close the rescue centre. They say local knowledge is vital in the complex handling of about 500 search and rescue incidents a year, one-third of which are distress calls.

“On average, 600 lives are saved and 18 lives are lost” in the region each year, says the Canadian Coast Guard website.

Federal Fisheries officials say communications technology means rescue co-ordination services in St. John’s and Quebec can be shifted to Halifax and Trenton, Ont.

Wiseman told reporters Monday that plans are on track to close the St. John’s centre next June, costing up to 12 jobs including his own.

NDP MP Jack Harris, representing St. John’s East, has called it a “negligent” move that will risk lives as Ottawa shaves $56 million from its fisheries budget.

Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman pleaded his case with his federal counterpart, Keith Ashfield, earlier this month. But the federal Conservative government has said closing what it has referred to as a “call centre” won’t jeopardize safety.

Jackman will attend Saturday’s rally, a spokeswoman said.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale said in a statement Monday that she will continue to push Ottawa to reverse course.

“We have voiced our extreme concern with this decision and efforts are ongoing in our communication with the Prime Minister’s Office on this.”

Earle McCurdy, president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union, stressed Monday that lives are at stake.

“There are families who walk the halls of the house at night because they have loved ones at sea trying to make a living from a very hostile environment,” he said.

“The Titanic didn’t go down on the other side of the Atlantic. It didn’t go down off Florida. It went down off the northeast coast of Newfoundland because it’s a very, very hostile environment.

“We need the best facilities we can get to try and deal with distress calls when they arise.”

Critics say the timing is especially mind-boggling after the deadly crash of an offshore helicopter two years ago put search and rescue services under intense scrutiny.

Cougar Flight 491 crashed on March 12, 2009, off Newfoundland, killing 17 people. A public inquiry into offshore helicopter safety recommended faster emergency response, independent safety oversight and several other improvements.

St. John’s city councillor Danny Breen lost his brother, Peter, in the tragedy.

The federal government’s first reply to the helicopter safety inquiry recommendations is “a cut in service,” he told reporters Monday.

“So I believe that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador need to stand up and have this decision reversed. We need to send a strong and clear message that we deserve better than this.”

Canada’s Milos Raonic opens Wimbledon account with win over Frenchman

WIMBLEDON, England – Canadian Milos Raonic made his Grand Slam grass-court singles debut Monday with a 6-3, 7-6 (3), 6-3 victory over Frenchman Marc Gicquel at Wimbledon.

Raonic fired 25 aces in a 96-minute effort that sent him into the second round in his first senior appearance at the All England club.

“I think I played well,” Raonic said. “It’s tough, especially being at a completely new tournament and also being at this stage and people talking it up – how I should be doing well.”

Aleksandra Wozniak of Blainville, Que., Rebecca Marino of Vancouver and Stephanie Dubois of Laval, Que., all had their first-round matches postponed due to rain.

Gicquel, the world No. 119, reached the main draw as a lucky loser following the withdrawal of Italian Fabio Fognini.

The Frenchman never threatened the 20-year-old Canadian, who swept the first set in 25 minutes and won on the first of three match points. Raonic blew 41 winners past his outclassed opponent while committing only 13 unforced errors.

Gicquel failed on his only break point chance while the Canadian broke twice in their brief encounter under sunny skies in London. Raonic won on Court 14, which is close to an intersection of several walkways at the All England club.

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“If you stop and you try to listen, you can notice a lot of things,” Raonic said. “You just try to forget all this stuff. I remember in the warmup there was some guy doing construction. I don’t know where, but there was some guy drilling something into something.

“That was the only thing that really popped up. But I tried to stay within the court and not look around too much.”

Raonic, who has a whopping 502 aces on the season, is the No. 31 seed at the tournament.

He began his ATP-level grass career in Halle, Germany, earlier this month. He made it to the quarter-finals before losing to Philipp Petzschner.

Raonic, who was born in Montenegro but grew up in Thornhill, Ont., then worked on polishing his grass-court game over the last week.

“I was fortunate enough to be able to practise with a few of the top guys – that helps,” he said. “I’ve just been trying to soak up as much and trying to learn as much (as I can).”

Raonic will next play veteran left-hander Gilles Muller of Luxembourg, a 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-3 winner over Tommy Haas of Germany. The winner of the second-round match will likely face top-seeded Rafael Nadal of Spain in the third round.

The Canadian said he would relish a meeting with Nadal, but doesn’t want to look past Muller.

“It would mean a lot,” Raonic said of the potential matchup. “First of all, it’s a third round of a Grand Slam, so that’s a plus.

“But I still have to play (the second round). But if it does get to that (Nadal), it’s a good opportunity and something to look forward to.”

Pink tank returns to Prague to mark the 20th anniversary of Soviet troops withdrawal

PRAGUE – A pink tank has temporarily returned to the heart of Prague to mark the 20th anniversary of the Soviet troops’ withdrawal.

Tank No. 23 was originally put on display on a Prague’s square in 1945 to commemorate the liberation of Czechoslovakia by the Red Army after the WWII occupation by Nazi troops.

For many, it became a symbol of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion that crushed the liberal reforms of Alexander Dubcek and ended an era known as the Prague Spring.

The presence of the soldiers was called temporary by communist authorities but lasted almost 23 years.

When the Velvet Revolution led by Vaclav Havel toppled the communist regime in 1989, the country’s new officials immediately demanded the troops’ withdrawal, Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra, a former anti-communist dissident, said Monday.

“Immediately after the Velvet Revolution, one of the first requirements was that those troops must go home,” Vondra told the AP in an interview.

David Cerny, a Czech visual artist painted the tank pink with friends in April 1991. The Soviet troops left by the end of June that year.

Some opposed the move, saying it dishonoured those who liberated the country but Cerny insisted Monday it was the right thing to do.

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“I’m not ashamed of what I did,” Cerny said. “It was a pretty good thing to do. At that time, most of the nation understood that we didn’t want them here any more.”

After Cerny’s action, the tank received its original look before it was painted pink again by a group of lawmakers from the Czechoslovak parliament. Since June 1991, the tank has been at the Military Technical Museum in Lesany, south of Prague.

It was taken to Prague from the museum Monday to be placed on a pontoon on the Vltava river near Prague’s famed Charles Bridge till July 1. It’s arrival kicked off a series of commemorative events called “The Week of Freedom” that marks the troops’ withdrawal.

“It’s one of the most important anniversaries in the Czech modern history,” said Pavla Kantnerova of the Curtain, a non-governmental group that’s organizing the events.

“People tend to forget it even though it was a great victory to get rid of the occupying troops,” Kantnerova said. “For our generation … the pink tank is the real symbol of the end of the occupation.”

Cameron Diaz swears up a storm and reunites with old beau Justin Timberlake in ‘Bad Teacher’

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Some actors swear a lot as the cameras roll and, in most instances, those blue moments end up on the cutting-room floor. But not in the case of “Bad Teacher,” in which Cameron Diaz raises profanity to the level of high art in her title role.

“It was all phonetic,” Diaz said, laughing. “We started with an ‘F’ and we ended up with a ‘K,’ and, apparently, if you put these other two letters in between, it makes a very funny noise … and people understand it.”

As Diaz explains, actors typically drop F-bombs on the set, even if it’s not in the script. “Then you’re, ‘God, you can’t say that. We can’t use that one,’” said the actress.

But in the making of “Bad Teacher,” which opens Friday, Diaz said it was just the opposite: “You’re like, ‘More F-bombs, give it to us’ in this film. So to be able to be on set and have your director screaming that at you is a lot of fun. Everybody is just laughing.”

The 38-year-old Diaz was at CinemaCon in Las Vegas earlier this year to get theatre owners warmed up to “Bad Teacher” – a rare, R-rated studio comedy with a female lead.

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But with the subsequent success of “Bridesmaids,” another rare raunchy female comedy this season, exhibitors are likely eyeing the concept as Hollywood’s next hot genre.

“It wasn’t a character that was originally written for a man and then made for a woman,” Diaz said of her “Bad Teacher” role. “It was conceived as a woman. And so, it is a lot of fun. I think it is funnier. If it was a guy, it wouldn’t be as funny. Guys don’t need to get (breast) jobs.”

“Teacher” reunites Diaz with former beau Justin Timberlake. And while Diaz and Timberlake had worked together post-breakup on the “Shrek” films, “Teacher” marks their first live-action effort together.

“We were all like, ‘This is the right person for the job,’” Diaz explained. “Any worry that we had was like what the media was going to turn it into. Because we all know what they can turn it into.

“So we were very grateful that they didn’t, because there was nothing to make of it, other than two people working together, who just happened to have gone out in another time in our lives. So, it wasn’t a big deal, and we had a great time. And we did the job.”

As for Diaz’s own high-school past? She said she never was sent to detention. “I should have, but somehow, I always got away with it.”

And was she a bad girl in high school? “Not in high school,” Diaz replied with a laugh.

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Atlantic Power to acquire Capital Power Income L.P. in $1.1B deal

U.S. power producer Atlantic Power Corp. plans to buy Capital Power Income L.P. for about $1.1 billion in a deal that will allow an Edmonton-based part owner to pursue projects that are a better fit with its strategy.

“What it does from our standpoint, is it frees up the organization to focus and pursue assets that fit with our geographic, technical and financial targets,” said Brian Vaasjo, CEO of Capital Power Corp., which holds a 29 per cent stake in CPILP.

“The (CPILP) assets are relatively small and one of our objectives is to invest in larger assets,” Vaasjo said Monday.

The average plant in Capital Power’s fleet produces about 250 megawatts of electricity, whereas those in the partnership produce about 70 megawatts.

Capital Power undertook a strategic review in October 2010, more than a year after it was spun off from the City of Edmonton’s utility, Epcor Utilities Inc.

It’s interest in the partnership was an attractive source of capital until the federal government imposed a new tax on income trusts earlier this year. Once it went public in 2009, Capital could get the funds it needed from investors, instead of having to rely on the partnership.

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Capital Power could have just bought all of the partnerships assets “but it came to the conclusion that the assets don’t really fit where we are going,” said Vaasjo.

Independent directors of CPILP determined the deal with Boston-based Atlantic was the best option and a special committee has unanimously recommended unitholders accept it.

The deal will see Atlantic (TSX:ATP) pay $19.40 per unit either in cash or Atlantic Power shares. That represents a 4.1 per cent premium to the CPILP closing price of $18.63 on Friday and a 6.8 per cent premium to the partnership’s volume-weighted average trading price for the 30 days leading up to the start of the strategic review process on Oct. 5, 2010.

CPILP (TSX:CPA.UN) unitholders can choose to receive $19.40 in cash or 1.3 shares of ATP for each CPILP unit, subject to allocation limits.

Capital Power will receive about $320.3 million for its 29 per cent ownership interest in CPILP, plus an additional $10 million for the termination of its management agreement with CPILP.

In another outcome of the strategic review, CPILP will sell two North Carolina power facilities to an affiliate of Capital Power in a transaction worth $121 million. That will reduce the number of CPILP units outstanding by some 6.2 million units.

Capital Power has also entered into an agreement to buy the 150-megawatt Halkirk Wind Project from Greengate Power Corp.

The capital cost of the project is $357 million, which includes $33 million that will be paid to Greengate for their share in the project.

Meanwhile, Atlantic Power said its market capitalization should nearly double once the CPILP deal closes, making it the second-largest publicly listed power infrastructure company in Canada.

“Atlantic’s acquisition of CPILP is truly a win-win transaction for all stakeholders involved,” Atlantic CEO Barry Welch told a conference call with analysts.

Upon closing, Atlantic said it intends to increase dividends by five per cent to $1.15 from $1.094 on an annual basis.

Atlantic Power’s headquarters will remain in Boston, with additional offices in Chicago, Toronto and Richmond, B.C.

The deal is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter, subject to investor and regulatory approvals.

In afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange, CPILP gained 3.5 per cent to $19.28. Capital Power Corp. lost a penny to $26.78.

In Toronto, Atlantic shares dipped five cents to $14.91 and in New York, they lost 19 cents, or 1.2 per cent, to US$15.22.

Note to readers: CORRECTS Halkirk wind project sale details

Nadal and Williams win opening-round Wimbledon matches in straight sets

WIMBLEDON, England – Rafael Nadal opened his Wimbledon title defence with a convincing victory Monday, beating Michael Russell 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 on a “fantastic” day while his parents watched from the Royal Box.

In keeping with tradition, the defending men’s champion played the first match on Centre Court at the All England Club – and the top-ranked Spaniard put on a worthy performance to begin the 125th edition of the championships.

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Five-time women’s champion Venus Williams, back on her favourite grass surface, also swept into the second round with a 6-3, 6-1 win over 97th-ranked Akgul Amanmuradova of Uzbekistan. The American also made a fashion statement, wearing a one-piece playsuit with cutout sleeves that exposed part of her back.

On a day when rain washed out 31 matches on the outside courts, fourth-seeded Andy Murray also moved into the second round, winning in four sets against Daniel Gimeno-Traver in a match played entirely under the retractable roof over Centre Court.

Nadal, coming off his sixth French Open title and 10th overall Grand Slam championship, double-faulted to go down a break 4-2 in the first set against the 91st-ranked Russell. But Nadal buckled down, ran off six straight games to take the set and go up a break in the second. He was in command the rest of the way against the 33-year-old American.

“I started so-so in the first set, but after that I start to hit very well the forehand and I think I finished playing a very good level,” Nadal said.

The two players shared a laugh after Russell successfully challenged what had been ruled an ace by Nadal on match point. Nadal won the next point, though, to finish the match in just under two hours.

It was the first time Nadal has walked onto Centre Court as defending champion. After winning the title for the first time in 2008, he missed the tournament the following year with a knee injury.

“Fantastic,” he said. “Seriously, I never played in a court like this. (It) was a big emotion to be the first player to play in this fabulous court. It was a very, very exciting feeling.”

Watching from the Royal Box were Nadal’s parents, Sebastian and Ana Maria.

“Too many beautiful things to see my mom and my dad in the Royal Box,’” Nadal said. “I think for them (it) was a great experience. So, everything in general was very, very nice today.”

While Nadal and Williams played in mostly sunny conditions, rain fell in late afternoon and forced organizers to call off all play for the day except on Centre Court, where matches continued under the sliding roof.

Resuming play in covered conditions at 1-1 in the third set after a delay of about 50 minutes, sixth-seeded Francesca Schiavone completed a 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 victory over 45th-ranked Jelena Dokic of Australia.

Up next on Centre Court was Murray, who recovered from a one-set deficit to beat Daniel Gimeno-Traver 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, 6-0.

Bidding to become the first Briton to win the men’s title in 75 years, Murray got off to a slow start against the 59th-ranked Spaniard before taking complete command. From 3-3 in the third set, Murray won the final 15 games of the match.

Murray conceded only nine points in the third set and six in the fourth. The Spaniard took an injury timeout at 5-0 down in the third and received treatment on his right knee.

The roof was added to Centre Court before the 2009 tournament and was used once that year because of rain. It was used once in 2010 because of darkness – artificial lights go on when the roof is closed – and occasionally to provide shade from the sun, but not because of rain.

Earlier, Canadian Milos Raonic made his Grand Slam grass-court singles debut with a 6-3, 7-6 (3), 6-3 victory over Frenchman Marc Gicquel.

Raonic, of Thornhill, Ont., fired 25 aces in a 96-minute effort that sent him into the second round in his first senior appearance at the All England club.

“I think I played well,” Raonic said. “It’s tough, especially being at a completely new tournament and also being at this stage and people talking it up – how I should be doing well.”

Aleksandra Wozniak of Blainville, Que., Rebecca Marino of Vancouver and Stephanie Dubois of Laval, Que., all had their matches postponed.

The first seeded man to lose was No. 30 Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil – 7-6 (3), 6-4, 6-2 to 35-year-old German Rainer Schuettler, the oldest player in the men’s draw.

Sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych, who lost to Nadal in last year’s final, moved into the second round with a 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 win over Filippo Volandri of Italy. He served 12 aces.

Tenth-seeded American Mardy Fish beat Spain’s Marcel Granollers 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5), 6-4, while No. 14 Stanislas Wawrinka defeated Potito Starace of Italy 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

Other men’s winners included two Frenchmen – No. 9 Gael Monfils, who beat Matthias Bachinger 6-4, 7-6 (3), 6-3, and No. 17 Richard Gasquet, who defeated Santiago Giraldo 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (3).

Williams, who played at Eastbourne last week after an injury layoff of nearly five months, looked right at home on the Wimbledon grass where she has been so dominant.

She kept her opponent waiting for several minutes on Court 2, with Amanmuradova sitting patiently on her courtside chair for the 31-year-old American to arrive.

Once play started, Williams took Amanmuradova apart in 59 minutes with her hard-hitting all-court game. She served seven aces, broke four times and had 23 winners to only five unforced errors – none in the second set.

“It’s always great to be back,” Williams said. “To play a few matches at Eastbourne helped me feel pretty comfortable here. All in all, I’m pretty pleased. I only see pluses for today. I missed being out here playing.”

Williams, always the fashionista, sported an eye-catching outfit that featured a deep “V” neckline and a gold belt wrapped around the waist.

“It’s a jumper,” Williams said. “Jumpers are very ‘now,’ as is lace. The shoulders have a lot of draping. It’s a kind of trendy dress. It’s fun. The back is a like a cutout or peekaboo. I’m always trying to do something different and fun.”

Williams’ second-round opponent will be Japan’s Kimiko Date-Krumm, who became the second oldest women to win a match at Wimbledon, beating Katie O’Brien 6-0, 7-5 on Monday.

The 40-year-old Date-Krumm, the third oldest women to compete at Wimbledon in the Open era and the oldest in this year’s draw, came out of retirement in 2008 but lost in the first round the last two years at the All England Club.

In another featured women’s match, 2010 runner-up Vera Zvonareva downed 115th-ranked American Alison Riske 6-0, 3-6, 6-3. The second-seeded Russian looked in trouble after the second set against the 20-year-old Riske, whose best career results have been on grass. But Zvonareva raised her game and closed the match with an ace.

British Library, Google in deal to digitize books dating back to 18th century

LONDON – A treatise on a stuffed hippopotamus, an 18th-century English primer for Danish sailors and a description of the first engine-driven submarine are among 250,000 books to be made available online in a deal between Google and the British Library.

The agreement, announced Monday, will let Internet users read, search, download and copy thousands of texts published between 1700 and 1870.

It is a small step toward the library’s goal of making the bulk of its 14 million books and 1 million periodicals available in digital form by 2020.

“So far we have only been able to digitize quite a small fraction of the global collection,” said the library’s chief executive, Lynne Brindley. “There is a long way to go.”

The deal marks another step in Google’s effort to make digital copies of the world’s estimated 130 million books. The company, based in Mountain View, California, touts the ambitious project as a way to enable anyone with an Internet connection to tap in a vast reservoir of knowledge. Google, though, stands to make more money if it can build the world’s biggest digital library.

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By stockpiling millions of books that can’t be easily found elsewhere, Google gives people another reason to use its search engine, which already processes about two out of every three queries on the Web. Generating more search requests gives Google more opportunities to show ads that bring in revenue each they are clicked upon.

“Having richer content means people around the world are searching more for it, and that is good for our business,” said Peter Barron, Google’s European spokesman. He declined to say how much the project would cost, beyond describing it as “a substantial sum.” The books will be available on the websites of the British Library and Google Books.

Google has scanned more than 15 million books into its search index during the past seven years, but has only been able to show snippets of many of them because of copyright restrictions. The company tried to remove the U.S. copyright obstacles in a settlement of a class action lawsuit with authors and publishers only to have the agreement rejected by a federal judge three months ago.

The books that Google will be scanning from the British library are no longer protected by copyrights.

The deal with Google, which will see 40 million pages digitized over the next three years, will offer online researchers a selection of rarely seen works from an era of social, political, scientific and technological change that took in the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and the American war of independence.

The books range from Georges Louis Leclerc’s “Natural History of the Hippopotamus, or River-Horse” – which includes a description of a stuffed animal owned by the Prince of Orange – to the 1858 work “A Scheme for Underwater Seafaring,” describing the first combustion engine-driven submarine.

The books are more than scholarly curiosities. British Library curator Kristian Jensen said an 18th-century guide to English for Danish mariners shows “how English began to emerge from being the language spoken by people over there on that island” to become the world’s dominant tongue.

Last year, the British Library announced plans to digitize up to 40 million pages of newspapers dating back three-and-a-half centuries, and it recently made thousands of 19th-century books digitized in a deal with Microsoft available as an app for iPhone and iPad devices.

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Jill Lawless can be reached at 杭州桑拿按摩论坛twitter杭州夜网/JillLawless

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AP Technology Writer Michael Liedtke in San Francisco contributed to this story.

NATO confirms striking area of site Libyan government says was family compound; 15 said killed

SURMAN, Libya – Libya’s government said a NATO airstrike west of Tripoli early Monday destroyed a large family compound belonging to a close associate of Moammar Gadhafi, killing at least 15 people, including three children. It was the second claim of civilian deaths at a home in as many days.

The alliance said the strike Monday hit a “command and control” centre.

Gadhafi’s regime has repeatedly accused NATO of targeting civilians in an attempt to rally support against international intervention into Libya’s civil war. The alliance insists it tries to avoid killing civilians.

Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said NATO bombs struck the compound belonging to Khoweildi al-Hamidi outside the city of Surman, some 40 miles (60 kilometres) west of Tripoli, around 4 a.m. local time Monday.

NATO initially said it had not hit any targets in the Surman area overnight. But the alliance later released a statement saying it conducted a “precision strike” near the town early Monday “on a legitimate military target – a command and control node which was directly involved in co-ordinating systematic attacks” on Libyan citizens.

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The commander of NATO’s Libya operation, Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, said the “strike will greatly degrade the Gadhafi regime’s forces’ ability to carry out their barbaric assaults on the Libyan people.”

“Wherever Gadhafi tries to hide his command and control centres, we will find them,” he said.

NATO officials have repeatedly said the alliance does not target individuals. It could not confirm reports of casualties in Monday’s strike but said it regrets any loss of civilian life.

Al-Hamidi is a longtime regime insider who took part in the 1969 coup that brought Gadhafi to power. He reportedly commanded a battalion that crushed rebels in the nearby western city of Zawiya in March, and his daughter is married to one of Gadhafi’s sons, Saadi.

Ibrahim said al-Hamidi escaped the airstrikes unharmed but that three children, two of them al-Hamidi’s grandchildren, were among the 15 people killed. Officials said he was inside a still-intact building at the time of the strike.

“They (NATO) are targeting civilians. … The logic is intimidation,” Ibrahim said. “They want Libyans to give up the fight … they want to break our spirit.”

He warned that killing civilians risked creating a “hateful generation” of young Libyans who “will make the world a very dangerous place.”

Foreign journalists based in the Libyan capital were taken by government officials to the walled compound, where at least two buildings had been blasted to rubble. A pair of massive craters could be seen in the dusty ground, and rescue workers with sniffer dogs were scouring the rubble in search of people. The smell of smoke was still in the air.

Bombs also ripped holes through the top of a large tent sheltering cars, smashing the floor and mangling vehicles inside. The windows were shattered in a circular sitting room containing old framed photos said to be of al-Hamidi, and a deer kept in an enclosure with other animals had a broken antler and was bleeding from the mouth.

While there were no signs of heavy weapons at the site, armed guards in military-style uniforms patrolled the grounds as numerous security cameras watched over the sprawling complex. Hundreds of cases of bottled water, cooking oil, pasta and other supplies were stockpiled in one of the destroyed buildings.

Another building outside the compound, next to a communications tower, was also flattened, and walls were blown out of an adjacent house. A mosque across the street and a school next door were not damaged.

Journalists were later taken to a hospital in the nearby city of Sabratha, where medical workers showed them the bodies of about eight to 10 people, including at least two children, said to have been killed in the strike. Some of the bodies appeared charred, while others were in pieces. Portraits of Gadhafi hung on the hospital walls as armed men in military fatigues roamed the hallways.

NATO, which has a mandate to protect Libyan civilians, has rejected government allegations that it targets civilians. However, mistakes have occurred.

On Sunday, the alliance acknowledged that one of its airstrikes accidentally struck a residential neighbourhood in the capital, killing civilians. Like on Monday, journalists were taken to the scene of that bomb site and then shown bodies of those said to have been killed.

A coalition including France, Britain and the United States launched the first strikes against Gadhafi’s forces under a United Nations resolution to protect civilians on March 19. NATO, which is joined by a number of Arab allies, assumed control of the air campaign over Libya on March 31.

From their de facto capital of Benghazi, the rebels have taken over much of the eastern half of the country. They also control pockets in the west, mainly around the port city of Misrata and in the Nafusa mountains south of Tripoli.

In Luxembourg, European Union foreign ministers condemned the Libyan regime, saying in a statement that “time is not on Gadhafi’s side,” and that the Libyan leader “has lost all legitimacy to remain in power.”

The 27 foreign ministers also toughened the bloc’s sanctions against the regime by adding six port authorities controlled by Gadhafi’s forces to its asset-freeze list. The ports were not named.

In a similar move, the central bank of the United Arab Emirates ordered a freeze on the accounts of 19 Libyan individuals and institutions while an investigation of the funds is under way into possible links to Gadhafi’s regime, according to local media.

The reports gave no further details, and officials at the UAE’s central bank were not immediately available for comment.

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Associated Press writers Don Melvin in Luxembourg and Brian Murphy in Dubai contributed to this report.

Loonie flat, early U.S. dollar strength moderates amid European debt worries

TORONTO – The Canadian dollar shook off early losses to close flat against the greenback Monday.

The loonie was unchanged from Friday’s close at 102.02 cents US.

The American currency earlier made sharp gains against other currencies, particularly the euro, after a weekend meeting of eurozone finance ministers failed to agree on an immediate release of bailout funds to Greece.

Though the finance ministers of the 17 countries that use the euro agreed to hand over the next bailout instalment worth euro 12 billion (US$17 billion), they said they would only do that if the Greek Parliament backed further austerity measures.

But there was great uncertainty as to whether the Greek government can push through those new measures.

“(The ministers) have reiterated that they aren’t going to arrive at a solution to the Greek situation until around mid-July,” said BMO Capital Markets senior economist Benjamin Reitzes.

“This isn’t really new information, as last week EU Commissioner (Olli) Rehn said a deal wouldn’t be fully worked out until July 11.”

The euro moved as low as US$1.4191 earlier in the session but by late in the afternoon the continental currency was at US$1.4303.

Tumbling oil prices had put pressure on the Canadian dollar earlier in the session, and it fell as low as 101.53 cents US. The July crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange was up 25 cents at US$93.26 a barrel after the rising U.S. dollar earlier pushed oil as low as US$91.14.

A stronger greenback usually helps depress oil prices, which are denominated in dollars, as it makes oil more expensive for holders of other currencies.

Metal prices also retreated with the July copper contract on the Nymex down three cents at US$4.07 a pound.

Nervous investors pushed bullion higher for a fifth day with the August gold contract in New York up $2.90 at US$1,542 an ounce.

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