World in brief: New leader wants mission extension


Yasuo Fukuda took office as Japan’s prime minister today, promising to use his skills as a negotiator to win approval for extending Tokyo’s contentious mission in support of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The 71-year-old, who studied backroom politics at the knee of his prime minister father, cast himself as the steady hand Japan needs after the scandal-scarred one-year term of his youthful predecessor Shinzo Abe, who abruptly resigned two weeks ago.

“There is room for discussion with our opponents, if they are willing to engage with us,” Fukuda said Tuesday in his first news conference after winning election in parliament. “I believe the government and all parties can come together to the negotiating table.”

Fukuda and his ministers were formally sworn in at a palace ceremony this morning ahead of their first Cabinet meeting later in the day.

Panama City, Panama

Seven passengers held after flight

Six Syrians and a Cuban who were detained in Panama after a flight crew reported suspicious behavior told authorities that three of them had approached the cockpit by mistake, police said Tuesday.

The men, who were traveling together on a Copa Airlines flight from Cuba, were also suspected of taking a knife that went missing after breakfast was served in the first-class cabin where they were sitting, Panama’s National Police said in a news release.

Police said three of the men approached the cockpit door and tried to open it. They told investigators they confused it with the bathroom, the statement said. Panama’s Judicial Police also said the men tried to get into the cockpit.

Earlier, Panamanian Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Victor de la Hoz had denied that the passengers tried to gain access to the cockpit, and said the crew simply notified authorities on the ground that a knife was missing.

It was not immediately possible to reconcile the different stories.

The seven were being held at Panama’s international airport Tuesday night.


Israel breaks ties with Gaza banks

Israel’s largest bank said Tuesday it was severing its last remaining ties with Palestinian banks in Gaza, following the Israeli government’s declaration of the coastal strip as an “enemy entity.”

Bank Hapoalim said in a statement that it would cease activities “with banks and branches located in the Gaza Strip.”

Palestinians have no currency of their own and do most of their local business in Israeli shekels.

A Gaza expert warned the move could cause monetary chaos there.

Sharhabil al-Zaim, legal adviser for six Gaza banks, said since Gaza can work only through corresponding banks, a cutoff of Hapoalim service would cause “partial paralysis of the banks’ operations in Gaza” and might lead to a run on Gaza banks.


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