Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Italian woman kidnapped in Algeria is freed

An Italian woman kidnapped in southern Algeria over a year ago has been freed, Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said Tuesday.

Terzi said he had just told the family of Maria Sandra Mariani of her release.

"I join in their great joy and relief for this wonderful news," he said in a written statement. "My deepest gratitude goes to all of those who have contributed to the positive outcome with great dedication, constancy and professionalism."

Mariani, 54, was seized by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a sub-Saharan offshoot of the terrorism network, in the Algerian Sahara in February 2011, Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Mariani, a tourist, was seized by armed men near the Niger border, the agency said.

She is expected to return to Italy on Wednesday, Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported.

Her father, in Tuscany, wept with joy when he heard the news of her release, the newspaper said.

The Italian government has not given details of how Mariani's freedom was secured.

Another Italian, non-governmental organization worker Rossella Urru, was kidnapped last October by the same group and remains in their hands, the Italian foreign ministry said. She was abducted near the border with Mauritania.


Volvo expands diesel engine line-up

Volvo-expands-diesel-engine-line-up Volvo has extended its range of diesel engines.

The manufacturer has added a new entry-level five-cylinder 2.0-litre turbocharged engine for its S60, V60, V70 and S80 models.

The new 134bhp engine will take the D3 name – the current D3 diesel will be reclassified as the D4 – and come with the option of manual or automatic transmission.

The updated range now consists of the 113bhp D2, 134bhp D3, 161bhp D4, and 212bhp D5 engines.

Tweaks to improve efficiency mean that almost all diesel-powered versions of the Volvo S60, V60, V70 and S80 (with a manual gearbox) will have CO2 emissions of less than 120g/km. The exceptions are D5 versions of the V60, V70 and S80.

The updated range of diesel engines is available to order later this month, with deliveries starting in May.

What car

Obama rejects Netanyahu's claim on Iran nuclear 'freebie'

120415104840-obama-colombia-secret-service-story-top President Obama has firmly rejected a complaint by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Iran was given a "freebie" on its nuclear program.

Netanyahu's complaint came Sunday, a day after key world powers met with Iran and announced that the next meeting would take place in late May.

"My initial impression is that Iran has been given a freebie," Netanyahu said. "It has got five weeks to continue enrichment without any limitation, any inhibition."

Obama took issue with the complaint.

"Now, the clock is ticking. And I've been very clear to Iran and to our negotiating partners that we're not going to have these talks just drag out in a stalling process," he said Sunday in Cartagena, Colombia, at the Summit of the Americas. "But so far, at least, we haven't given away anything -- other than the opportunity for us to negotiate and see if Iran comes to the table in good faith.

"And the notion that somehow we've given something away or a 'freebie' would indicate that Iran has gotten something. In fact, they've got some of the toughest sanctions that they're going to be facing coming up in just a few months if they don't take advantage of these talks. I hope they do."

Saturday's talks with Iran involved the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council -- the United States, France, Russia, China, and Britain -- as well as Germany, referred to as the P5+1.

The next set of talks was scheduled for May 23 in Baghdad.

Netanyahu said Iran should "take immediate steps to stop all enrichment, take out all enrichment material and dismantle the nuclear facility in Qom" and said the Islamic republic "must not have the opportunity to develop atomic bombs."

Iran insists that its nuclear program is for energy purposes only. U.N. and Western leaders suspect it of having military aims, including a possible nuclear weapon.

Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, noted what it called a sharp and troubling increase in Iran's uranium enrichment capabilities.

On state-run news agency IRNA, Iran described Saturday's talks in positive terms and said its right to a peaceful nuclear program was supported.

"Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, said after the Istanbul meeting that talking about suspending or halting uranium enrichment was an old issue now out-of-date," IRNA reported.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said after the talks, "We have agreed that the Non-Proliferation Treaty forms a key basis for what must be serious engagement to ensure all the obligations under the treaty are met by Iran while fully respecting Iran's right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy."


Google Drive: a new cloud storage service 'to launch next week'

Google Drive: a new cloud storage service 'to launch next week' The search giant is set to take on popular storage service, Dropbox, with its new offering, technology site Read Write Web reports. It is expected to offer 5GB of free storage – 3GB more than Dropbox’s capacity. People will be able to pay for more storage. However, prices are not yet known.

Users can put their files into Google Drive and then access them on their desktop, mobile phone or tablet. It is expected that the service work on Mac, Windows, Android and iOS – all via drive.google.com.

People can make changes to a file on one device, and they will be reflected on all platforms.

Google already has storage systems for music and documents but it is not yet known what sharing features between these services Google Drive will allow.

The tagline for the service is: “All your files – everywhere”. Google Drive is expected to allow people mobile app document editing capabilities.

The Telegraph

Japan vows $60 billion to boost IMF firepower

imf Japan said on Tuesday it will provide $60 billion in loans to the International Monetary Fund, becoming the first non-European nation to commit money to boost the fund's financial firepower to contain the euro zone debt crisis.

Finance Minister Jun Azumi said Japan hoped Tokyo's contribution, which will be formally announced at a Group of 20 financial leaders' meeting later this week, will encourage other countries to follow suit.

Indeed, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde was quoted as saying she hoped to secure government agreements this week to raise the IMF's funds by more than $400 billion, about two-thirds of the amount the Fund had said in January it would need.

"I really hope this week we'll reach the critical mass of more than $400 billion. We are determined to do all we can," she was quoted as telling Italy's main financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, though she also said finally sealing the funds might take a bit longer.

Japan's announcement comes ahead of the IMF and World Bank Spring Meeting and a G20 finance leaders' gathering in Washington, which run from Friday to Sunday.

"Following a series of euro zone's policy responses, it is important to strengthen IMF funding and pave the way for ensuring an end to the crisis not only for the euro zone but also for Japan and Asian countries," Azumi told a regular news conference after a cabinet meeting.

"I am confident that many other countries will pledge contributions to the IMF," he said.

The IMF, which acts as a lender of last resort for governments, said in January it would need $600 billion in new resources to help "innocent bystanders" who might be affected by economic and financial spillovers from Europe.

Lagarde said last week the IMF might not need as much money as it had thought because economic risks had waned. G20 officials told Reuters the world's major economies were likely to agree to provide between $400 billion and $500 billion.

"I am grateful for Japan's leadership and strong commitment to multilateralism, and I call on the broader fund membership to follow Japan's lead," Lagarde said after Japan's pledge.

Japan's $60 billion pledge takes overall commitments to about $310 billion. Euro zone countries have committed about $200 billion and other European Union nations an additional $50 billion.

But the United States, heading towards a presidential election in November in which the country's hefty budget deficit is a key topic, has said it won't offer new funds.

Canada has insisted it is not interested in contributing to a fund to bail out Europe, which it says has enough of its own resources to deal with the crisis.

Other economies, including major emerging markets China, Brazil and Russia, have said they are willing to chip in but were looking to get more voting power in return. Azumi said he consulted with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan on Monday and that there was no gap between the two countries on IMF funding.

Azumi acknowledged it would be difficult to secure commitments from all countries this week towards boosting the IMF's financial firepower and he underlined Japan's long-standing position that Europe needed to do more to combat the debt crisis.

"I don't think Europe has made enough efforts on their own," Azumi said. "I must urge them to beef up their firewall further. At the same time the world is in need of strengthening IMF lending, so Japan has been taking the lead in coordinating opinions with other countries concerned."

Financial markets are showing increased concern about the debt crisis.

Spain's 10-year government bond yields rose above 6 percent on Monday for the first time since the beginning of December, reflecting worries about the health of some Spanish banks and that Madrid could fail to meet budget deficit targets.

That would raise the risk that the euro zone's fourth-largest economy, which Spain has said is probably in its second recession since 2009, might need an international bailout.

(Additional reporting by Valentina Za in Milan; Writing by Tomasz Janowski; Editing by Neil Fullick)

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