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Tensions Mount in Haiti as Situation Grows Desperate


HAITI - EARTHQUAKE: Aid workers and authorities in earthquake-ravaged Haiti warn tensions are rising as survivors become more desperate, waiting for food, water and medical care to reach them. A huge international relief effort is under way. Haiti and the United States have signed an agreement giving the U.S. control of the airport in the capital, Port-au-Prince, where international relief teams are working to get emergency aid to city residents. But four days after the quake reduced the capital to rubble, the relief efforts are moving slowly. Aid workers report patience is wearing thin, and without some help soon, the situation could degenerate into lawlessness and chaos.

IRAN - NUCLEAR: Six world powers will meet behind closed doors in New York Saturday to discuss further sanctions against Iran and its nuclear program. The goal is to pressure Iran back to the negotiating table and to accept a U.N.-backed deal to send most of Iran's low-enriched uranium overseas for refinement into a higher grade fuel needed for a nuclear research reactor. Iran ignored an informal December 31 deadline to accept the deal. The U.S. state department has said it will push for new sanctions targeting Iran's Revolutionary Guard, among others.

AFGHANISTAN - POLITICS: The Afghan parliament has approved President Hamid Karzai's picks for foreign and justice ministers. Lawmakers began voting Saturday on Mr. Karzai's second slate of cabinet nominees, after rejecting most of his first choices. Some lawmakers have criticized the new list, saying it contains a number of unknown nominees with little expertise. Parliament voted against most of Mr. Karzai's original choices earlier this month, rejecting 17 of the president's 24 nominees. Legislators said many of the nominees were political cronies, corrupt, or had ties to warlords.

UKRAINE - ELECTION: Voters in Ukraine go to the polls on Sunday in an election that is expected to spell defeat for the incumbent president. Viktor Yushchenko came to power in 2004 in the populist Orange Revolution. But his government has been plagued by political turmoil and a poor economy and he trails badly in opinion polls. The man he defeated five years ago, Viktor Yanukovych, tops the polls with Ukraine's prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, in second place. It is widely believed that neither candidate will win a majority in Sunday's election, forcing a second round of voting on February 7.

POPE - SYNAGOGUE: Controversy surrounds Pope Benedict's planned visit on Sunday to Rome's main synagogue. The head of Italy's rabbinical assembly, Giuseppe Laras, says he will not attend the visit and at least one Italian survivor of the Holocaust is also boycotting it. Many in Italy's Jewish community are angered by the pope's decision announced last month to move the World War Two-era pontiff, Pius the 12th, closer to sainthood. They say the decision is disrespectful to the Jewish people. Historians and Jewish leaders argue that Pius, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, did not do enough to save Jews from persecution by Nazi Germany.

EGYPT - GAZA: The Palestinian militant group Hamas is urging Egypt to stop construction of an underground security barrier that would block tunnels to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said Friday that the underground wall would put further strain on Gaza. He said a wall is erected "between enemies and not between brothers." Meshaal made the comments at a conference in Lebanon's capital. Egypt and neighboring Israel imposed a blockade on the seaside Palestinian territory after Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007.

OBAMA - US BANKS: U.S. President Barack Obama is using his weekly address to once again call on the country's top banks to take responsibility for their role in the global financial crisis and repay the financial industry bailout in full. The president this week proposed a "financial crisis responsibility fee" for about 50 of the country's largest banks and financial firms, including some that did not get government help during the crisis. In his Saturday address, Mr. Obama said all banks benefitted from government programs to bailout the banking industry, including homeowners relief and emergency actions by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Federal Reserve.

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