Sep 24, 2011, 11:52 p.m.

Pakistan army chief calls special meeting of top commanders

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's powerful army chief General Ashfaq Kayani on Sunday called a "special" meeting of his top commanders to discuss the security situation, the military said, as the war of words with the United States escalated. The extraordinary meeting of the corps commanders came against the backdrop of sharp U.S. allegations that Pakistan army's powerful spy agency supported the Haqqani militant group Washington blames for the recent attack on its embassy and other targets in Kabul.

Power blackout hits Chile, halts copper mines

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - A massive power blackout paralyzed crucial copper mines in Chile on Saturday and darkened vast swaths of the country including the capital Santiago before energy was largely restored, officials said. The outage acutely exposed the fragility of the energy grid in the world's top copper producer, which was devastated by a powerful earthquake in 2010.

Putin sets stage for return as Russian president

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has ended months of speculation by saying he will run for president next March in an election that could open the way for him to stay in power for 12 more years. Putin's announcement was greeted by a standing ovation on Saturday at a congress of his ruling United Russia party, but it alarmed critics who say his return to the presidency could herald an era of political and economic stagnation.

Libyan NTC forces thrust deep into Gaddafi home town

SIRTE, Libya (Reuters) - Libyan interim government forces backed by NATO warplanes have mounted their deepest thrust into Muammar Gaddafi's home town of Sirte, getting as close as half a kilometer from the center of the deposed leader's coastal stronghold. Gunfire could be heard coming from the town center and black smoke rose as National Transitional Council (NTC) forces massed in Zafran Square on Saturday and moved up tanks and mortars. Pick-up trucks mounted with machineguns and loaded with fighters raced in.

Small tourist plane crashes in Nepal, 19 dead

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - A small plane carrying foreign tourists to view Mount Everest crashed in bad weather near Nepal's capital Kathmandu on Sunday, killing all 19 people on board, officials said. Kathmandu Airport officials said there were 16 passengers and a crew of three on board the plane. The cause of the crash was not known.

Attack on Yemen opposition camp kills 17

SANAA (Reuters) - Mortar shells and sniper fire struck an opposition protest camp in Sanaa on Saturday, and President Ali Abdullah Saleh's main military rival said the Yemeni leader's return to the country after a three-month absence could spark civil war. The direction this country will take, after months of unrest and six days of major violence in the capital, may hinge on a speech Saleh is expected to give on state television on Sunday.

Syria bans imports to save foreign currency

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syria has banned most imports except raw materials and grains, local businessmen said on Saturday, in a move to preserve foreign currency reserves as pressure grows from a popular rebellion and Western sanctions against Syria's rulers. The government decreed on Thursday that all imports carrying a tariff over 5 percent were banned, according to businessmen and traders in Damascus who were contacted by Reuters.

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