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In Brief: Berlusconi prepares to return to work after recovery from December attack

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says he is ready to return to work tomorrow after spending four weeks recovering from an attack that broke his nose.

Mr Berlusconi, 73, has been convalescing in the south of France and at his Milan villa since a man with a history of mental illness hurled a statuette at him at a rally on December 13. "I'm better now, I still have a little mark on my face. You can still see it, they tell me it will go away but unfortunately I've lost a tooth," said Mr Berlusconi, who has had a face lift and hair transplant in recent years.

Iceland voters to reject debt bill: poll

Six out of 10 Icelandic voters plan to reject a bill on repayment of more than €3.5bn owed to Britain and the Netherlands in a referendum on the so-called Icesave deal, according to a poll published by a newspaper yesterday.

Iceland's parliament authorised the government on Friday to hold a referendum no later than March 6 on terms under which Reykjavik will repay the money lost in high-interest Icesave bank accounts during a financial meltdown in 2008.

Britain and the Netherlands compensated savers in full and want their money back. Reaching agreement with the two EU countries is vital for the flow of aid to Iceland, still in the grip of a devastating recession.

Iran to seek compensation for WWII

Iran's president has ordered the formation of a team to study the damages the country suffered from the 1941 Allied invasion in order to demand compensation.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran suffered immensely after it was invaded by Britain and the Soviet Union during the Second World War despite its declared neutrality and was never compensated.

Mr Ahmadinejad had said he would write to United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon to ask that Iran be compensated for damages caused during the war and for the use of its territory and resources by Allied powers.

Britain and the Soviet Union invaded Iran on August 26, 1941, to secure Iranian oil fields and ensure supply lines for the Soviets fighting Axis forces. Food and fuel was scarce and natives experienced hardship as the needs of invading powers were given priority.

Muslims and Christians riot in Egypt

Muslims and Christians set fire to each other's homes and shops near the Egyptian town of Nagaa Hamady yesterday, three days after a gunman killed six Coptic Christians in a drive-by shooting, security sources said.

"Four houses and a shop belonging to Christians in the village of Tiraks were set on fire by Muslims, while four shops owned by Muslims in the village of al-Bahgorah were set on fire by Christians," a security source said.

Six people, Christian and Muslim, were injured in the fires, they added.

The drive-by shootings in Nagaa Hamady took place around midnight on Wednesday night, Coptic Christmas Eve. Muslim and Christian groups held separate protests on Thursday and Friday. The source said police had detained about 25 of the 2,000 protesters.

Security sources named three Muslims, who have since surrendered to police, as the suspected gunmen. They first fired on a crowd in a shopping area near a church in Nagaa Hamady, killing two Christians.

Migrants clash with Italian police

Some 300 African migrants were bused yesterday out of a southern Italian town rocked by two days of clashes between the migrants, police and local residents.

Many of the migrants from Ghana, Nigeria and other African countries have been camping out in tents and cardboard shelters in an abandoned factory with no heating and broken windows on the outskirts of Rosarno.

They also alleged they were earning illegally low wages -- as little as €20 for a 12-hour day picking crops.

The rioting began after two men -- one from Nigeria, the other from Togo -- were lightly wounded by a pellet gun attack Thursday. Migrants blamed the shooting on racism and groups of protesters stoned police, attacked residents and smashed shop windows and cars.

Police said on Friday that at least 37 people had been wounded, including five migrants, 14 residents and 18 police officers. Three migrants were seriously hurt when they were beaten with metal rods, police said.

Anti-China party wins seats in Taiwan

Taiwan's anti-China opposition won all three legislative seats up for grabs in byelections yesterday, giving it more clout to propose bills in parliament and further pressuring the Beijing-friendly ruling Nationalists.

The victory for the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which seeks Taiwan's formal independence from China, will see it holding over a quarter of all seats, and increase its odds in later elections.

"We'll have to accept the results and face up to it," King Pu-tsung, secretary general of the ruling Nationalist Kuomintang, said. The opposition won in the Taichung, Taoyuan and Taitung counties, reflecting discontent over issues such as a perceived slow response to an August typhoon and the lifting of a ban on US beef imports.

Sunday Independent