In brief: Noda Cabinet quits; Abe to take control
Tokyo – Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s Cabinet resigned today to clear the way for a vote in parliament to formally install the nation’s new leader, Shinzo Abe, a conservative whose nationalist positions have in the past angered Japan’s neighbors.
Noda’s fall ends more than three years at the helm for the left-leaning Democratic Party of Japan and brings back the more conservative, pro-big business Liberal Democratic Party.
Capitalizing on the Democrats’ failure to improve the economy and its perceived lack of strong leadership, Abe led the Liberal Democratic Party to victory in parliamentary elections Dec. 16. He was to be named prime minister later today.
Benedict delivers Christmas message
Vatican City – Pope Benedict XVI wished Christmas peace to the world Tuesday, decrying the slaughter of the “defenseless” in Syria, urging Israelis and Palestinians to find the courage to negotiate and encouraging China’s new leaders to allow more religious freedom.
Delivering the Vatican’s traditional Christmas day message from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, Benedict also encouraged Arab Spring nations, especially Egypt, to build just and respectful societies.
As the 85-year-old pontiff, bundled up in an ermine-trimmed red cape, gingerly stepped foot on the balcony, the pilgrims, tourists and Romans below backing St. Peter’s Square erupted in cheers.
Less than 12 hours earlier, Benedict had led a two-hour-long Christmas Eve ceremony in the basilica. He sounded hoarse and looked weary as he read his Christmas message and then holiday greetings in 65 languages.
Iran planning naval maneuvers
Tehran, Iran – Iran is planning naval maneuvers in international waters near strategic Strait of Hormuz, where one-fifth of the world’s oil supply passes, the official IRNA news agency reported Tuesday.
The report quoted Iran’s navy chief, Adm. Habibollah Sayyari, as saying the maneuvers will begin Friday from the Strait of Hormuz to the northern part of Indian Ocean.
Iran in the past has threatened to close the strait over Western sanctions aimed at its suspect nuclear program but has not repeated the threat lately.