In brief: Window for launch of rocket opens
SEOUL, South Korea – A near two-week launch window for a North Korean long-range rocket began today, a day after Pyongyang said it may delay liftoff. North Korea has faced mounting international pressure to abandon what critics call a cover for a banned missile test.
North Korean scientists had been pushing forward with final preparations for the launch but are considering “readjusting” the timing for unspecified reasons, an unidentified spokesman for the Korean Committee for Space Technology said in a dispatch released by North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency early Sunday.
North Korea earlier said it would launch a three-stage rocket mounted with a satellite from the Sohae station on its northwest coast sometime between today and Dec. 22. Pyongyang calls it a peaceful bid to send an observation satellite into space, its second attempt this year. An April launch failed seconds after liftoff.
Italy awaits fallout from Monti exit
ROME – Italy and the rest of Europe on Sunday anxiously awaited the reaction of financial markets to Premier Mario Monti’s surprise decision to resign.
Monti has been widely credited with restoring faith in the country’s capacity to survive the eurozone debt crisis since he took over the helm of a non-elected “technocrat” government. But he told the Italian president Saturday it was impossible to continue to lead after Berlusconi’s party, parliament’s largest, dropped its support and blamed his austerity measure for Italy’s staying mired in recession.
“We’ll see what the markets will do,” President Giorgio Napolitano told reporters asking if he was worried about the repercussions of the political crisis.
It was Napolitano who appointed Monti, an internationally respected economist, last year to replace Berlusconi, the three-time premier whose resistance to potentially unpopular austerity measures panicked financial markets.
Monti told Napolitano he would step down as soon as parliament passes a budget bill, likely within two weeks, setting the stage for elections as soon as February.
Snows kill six; strand hundreds
BELGRADE, Serbia – Freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall have killed at least six people and caused travel chaos across the Balkans, with rescue teams struggling to reach passengers stranded in buses and cars in Serbia on Sunday.
Officials said four people died in Croatia and two in Serbia as a result of blizzards in the region of southwestern Europe over the weekend, closing airports and roads and blocking public transportation in big cities.
People traveling in vehicles waited for hours on several roads in Serbia’s northern province of Vojvodina, including the main highway leading from Belgrade to the Hungarian border, before rescue teams could free them from 20 inches of snow that had fallen in just a few hours.
By late afternoon, 660 people, including 30 children, were evacuated from stranded vehicles, Serbia’s emergency authorities said, adding that army tanks were used to remove heavy trucks that skidded and blocked highways.