South Sudan gets $8B loan from China
JUBA, South Sudan South Sudan says China has granted an $8 billion loan for major infrastructure projects in the new nation.
Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said Saturday the money will finance agriculture, infrastructure, telecommunications and hydropower projects. He also said China will consider a request to finance an alternative oil pipeline to Kenyas northern coast that would bypass Sudans pipelines.
South Sudan is in an ongoing dispute with neighboring Sudan about an oil-rich region along their shared border. South Sudan became independent last year. Recent fighting between the two nations has put both countries oil industries at risk.
Saudi closes embassy in Egypt after protests
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia closed its Cairo embassy Saturday, and recalled its ambassador after protests about a detained Egyptian human-rights lawyer in a sharp escalation of tension between two regional powerhouses already on shaky terms because of uprisings in the Arab world.
The unexpected Saudi diplomatic break came after days of protests by hundreds of Egyptians outside the Saudi Embassy in Cairo and consulates in other cities to demand the release of Ahmed el-Gezawi. Relatives and human-rights groups say he was detained for allegedly insulting the kingdoms monarch.
Saudi authorities denied that and said he was arrested for trying to smuggle anti-anxiety drugs into the conservative oil-rich kingdom.
Obama releases $147M in aid to Palestinians
JERUSALEM U.S. President Barack Obama has ended a $147 million Congressional funding freeze that shut down Sesame Street and other aid programs to the Palestinians.
An official with the U.S. Agency for International Development said Saturday that the money, which pays for infrastructure, education and health projects, had been restored.
But the official could not say specifically whether Sesame Street would resume.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
In October, a member of Congress froze $192 million earmarked to the Palestinians as a penalty for their United Nations membership bid. Since then, Congress has released about $45 million.
S. Africa to release 35K from crowded prisons
JOHANNESBURG South African authorities say they are releasing up to 35,000 offenders to ease overcrowding in the nations prisons.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said Saturday about 14,600 prison inmates will be released conditionally or unconditionally, along with more than 20,000 offenders on probation or parole who qualify to have sentences cut.
President Jacob Zuma announced the pardons, known as special remission of sentences, to mark the anniversary Friday of Nelson Mandela winning the nations first all-race elections in 1994.
Mthethwa told reporters violent criminals and those jailed for sexual, drug-related and weapons offenses will not be freed.
Gunmen kill 2 guards in Afghan attack
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan Two Taliban militants hiding handguns in their shoes infiltrated a government compound in southern Afghanistan on Saturday in an attempt to assassinate a provincial governor, setting off a fierce gunbattle that left two security guards and both attackers dead.
The assailants passed through a pair of security checks without their weapons being detected before a guard at the last check in the reception room for the governors office noticed something suspicious and stopped them, said Gov. Tooryalai Wesa, the apparent target of the attack.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the attack.