Posted: 20 Dec 2010 06:49 PM PST
TEHRAN, Dec 21 — At least seven people were killed in a 6.5-magnitude earthquake that jolted southeastern Iran yesterday, damaging buildings in outlying mountainous areas, the region's governor said.
"Seven people have been killed and hundreds have been injured. Hundreds of people are still trapped under the rubbles," Esmail Najjar, governor of Iran's Kerman province, the centre of the quake, told the semi-official Mehr news agency.
State television said at least three villages had been destroyed.
The US Geological Survey put the quake's magnitude at 6.3.
The official IRNA news agency said nine aftershocks had hit since the main quake, including one of magnitude 5. Telephone lines had been cut.
Mohammad Javad Kamyab, an employee of Kerman province governor's office, told Reuters there were 30 villages in the quake-hit area.
"These villages are not heavily populated...We are not expecting a high death toll and so far 25 people have been injured," he said.
Another local official said access to the damaged villages "was very difficult."
"Rescue teams have been dispatched to the quake-hit area ... and are communicating via walkie-talkies," Hossein Baqeri, head of Iran's National Crisis Management unit, told state television.
The semi-official Fars news agency said the quake was also felt in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"Many people left their houses in the city of Zahedan ... It was also felt in the towns of Bam, Khash and Iranshahr," Fars reported.
Ali Reza, a resident of Bam, told Reuters by telephone: "There was no damage in the city of Bam but we felt the quake."
The province of Kerman is highly prone to earthquakes. Some 31,000 people were killed when an earthquake razed Bam in 2003.
Kerman is not one of the oil-producing regions of Iran, the world's fourth-biggest crude exporter. Iran is criss-crossed by major faultlines and is frequently hit by earthquakes.
In 2008 a magnitude 6.1 quake struck the southern port of Bandar Abbas, killing at least seven people and injuring 40.
An official in the governor's office of Kerman province told Reuters by telephone: "The quake-hit area is a deserted area."
State television, quoting an unnamed local Red Crescent official, said: "In some rural parts of the region ... the quake has caused heavy damage to buildings, especially in Hosseinabad village, where the houses were made of earthen bricks." — Reuters
Posted: 20 Dec 2010 06:27 PM PST
Gbagbo faces growing international pressure after European Union countries agreed to impose a travel ban on him and his entourage for failing to step down after a November 28 election the outside world says he lost.
The United States said it was also readying sanctions and repeated its call for Gbagbo to stand down. "It is time for him to go," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
Rival claimant Alassane Ouattara is backed by the United Nations, African leaders, Washington and the European Union but Gbagbo still controls the army in a power struggle that has raised fears of civil war resuming in the world's top cocoa grower.
The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution keeping its peacekeeping mission in place for six more months — a normal extension period. The Council urged the mission "to support, in coordination with the Ivorian authorities, the provision of security for the government and key political stakeholders."
In a separate statement, it warned that anyone responsible for attacks on civilians or peacekeepers could be hauled before an international tribunal.
Noting violence that has already claimed over 50 lives since the contested election, the Council urged the force to fulfil a mandate to protect civilians. But it was not immediately clear that it represented the toughening of the mandate that Ouattara has called for.
Peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said the UN troops were ready to open fire in self-defence and to defend their mandate, which includes the protection of civilians.
"We have the right to open fire in the case of self-defence or in defence of the mandate," Le Roy told Reuters in a telephone interview. "There have already been some attacks on our peacekeepers, and we had to fire back."
Gbagbo's government repeated demands for the force, which first arrived in Ivory Coast in 2004, to leave.
"If, against our will, it wants to keep this force on our territory, we will not cooperate with it. That means the leader of that force will not have a formal interlocutor — how are they going to work?" said Interior Minister Emile Guirieoulou.
Hours earlier, EU countries agreed to impose a travel ban on Gbagbo, his wife and 17 of his close allies.
"We expect the ban to be adopted by tomorrow and come into effect on Thursday, effective immediately," European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told reporters in Brussels, adding that governments were also discussing a freeze on assets.
The EU travel ban list is expected to include top security, ruling party and regular army officials as well as figures in the entourage of Gbagbo and his powerful wife Simone.
"I don't think this will advance things. It just shows that those behind them haven't got much room for manoeuvre," Gbagbo aide Pascal Affi N'Guessan said of the sanctions.
Guirieoulou said of the sanctions: "They make us smile."
Tensions in Ivory Coast have pushed cocoa futures to four-month highs in recent weeks on market fears of disruption to supplies. So far, beans have been getting through to port but there have been delays in registering them for export.
Intended to heal scars in a country ripped apart by a 2002-2003 civil war, the election has only accentuated the divide between the Gbagbo-held south and rebel-held north.
Ouattara's eight-point poll victory was overturned on grounds of alleged fraud by the Constitutional Council, a top legal body led by a staunch Gbagbo ally.
UN mission chief Y.J. Choi accused Gbagbo's camp of a media campaign inciting violence against UN staff and said "armed young men" had harassed some at their homes.
But he said the mission, known as Unoci, would not be deterred. "We remember one of Winston Churchill's maxims: 'If you are going through hell, just keep going'," he said.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay cited on Sunday evidence of "massive" violations in Ivory Coast, saying over 50 people had been killed in the previous three days and hundreds abducted from their homes by armed men.
Outside the UN headquarters, Ouattara supporters said they had been attacked overnight and begged for medical care.
"Masked men attacked us last night," said Salif Kone, 57, a taxi driver who escaped a raid on his Abidjan neighbourhood. "They fired tear gas and bullets. Many were wounded."
Gbagbo's government has denied using excessive force to put down protests last week and says some protesters were armed.
Around 5,000 Ivorians have already fled to neighbouring countries such as Liberia and Guinea, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has said it is making contingency plans for a possible greater exodus. — Reuters
Rebel soldiers of Ivory Coast opposition leader Alassane Ouattara walk out of Golf hotel in Abidjan on December 16, 2010 during a clash with Ivorian forces at the hotel. — Reuters pic
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