In an effort to press Iran harder to make it halt its nuclear programme, the European Union agreed in principle to block imports of Iranian oil. Iran urged Arab countries not to increase their production in response to the sanctions. America is also seeking the support for the measure from other big importers of Iranian oil, notably China. See article
Syria’s president, Bashar Assad, announced an amnesty for all crimes committed since the beginning of the ten-month uprising against him. It would apply to protesters and army deserters who turn themselves in by the end of January. Mr Assad has offered amnesties before but almost no one responded. Russia said it would veto any moves in the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Syria or authorise the use of force.
Strikes brought Nigeria to a halt after the government removed the country’s fuel-subsidy regime, causing petrol prices to soar. Under pressure from trade unions, President Goodluck Jonathan agreed to lower prices again but said the subsidies would eventually be phased out entirely. See article
At least 51 people, mostly women and children, were killed in clashes in South Sudan’s Jonglei state, which lies near the border with the north. The violence is part of a deadly cycle of cattle raids and revenge attacks between some of the country’s ethnic groups.
In response to concerns raised by the IMF, the Angolan government denied that $32 billion is missing from its accounts. Officials admitted a discrepancy, but said this was due to poor record-keeping, not corruption.
A reward for good behaviour
America restored full diplomatic relations with Myanmar after the military-controlled civilian government released scores of political prisoners and announced a ceasefire with a rebel group. Meanwhile, Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the country’s democracy movement, declared that she would stand for a by-election seat in parliament. See article
Ma Ying-jeou was re-elected as Taiwan’s president, defeating Tsai Ing-wen, the country’s first female presidential candidate, in a closely fought election. Mr Ma has worked to improve Taiwan’s relationship with China and used his first term to strengthen the countries’ economic ties. His party, the Kuomintang, also retained its control of the legislature. See article
Pakistan’s Supreme Court summoned Yousaf Raza Gilani, the prime minister, to appear on charges of contempt. Mr Gilani is accused of ignoring instructions to open a corruption case against the president, Asif Ali Zardari. Mr Gilani insists the president has immunity. His government is determined to hang on, although the army’s patience is wearing thin. See article
An impeachment trial began in the Philippines of the Supreme Court chief justice, Renato Corona. The televised trial is part of President Benigno Aquino’s campaign against corruption. Mr Corona was appointed by Mr Aquino’s predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was arrested late last year on charges of corruption and electoral fraud.
Otto Pérez Molina, a former general, was sworn in as president of Guatemala. He has promised an “iron fist” against crime in the country, which is one of the world’s most violent. See article
Venezuela announced that it would withdraw from the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, a tribunal run by the World Bank that serves as the arbitrator for foreign-investment contracts. In a recent judgment the country was ordered to hand over $908m to Exxon Mobil, which it refuses to pay.
The European Commission said it would begin legal proceedings against the Hungarian government over a central-bank law, the forced early retirement of judges and the treatment of its data-protection ombudsman. Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, delivered a conciliatory speech to the European Parliament and pledged to work with the commission. See article
A spat between Romania’s president and a popular official in the health ministry triggered protests across the country. Amid violent scenes in Bucharest, the capital, the government backtracked on a controversial health-care reform but failed to stamp out the demonstrations. See article
A Turkish court convicted and jailed three men involved in the 2007 murder of Hrant Dink, an outspoken Turkish-Armenian journalist. But Mr Dink’s family and others maintain that state officials were involved in the killing, and are continuing to press for a full investigation. See article
The British government scrapped an inquiry by a former judge into the alleged participation of MI5 and MI6 in the rendition and torture of terror suspects, after new claims emerged that intelligence officers had helped to send two Libyans back to the Qaddafi regime in 2004. The government promised to hold a new inquiry once the police complete their investigation into the Libyans’ allegations.
An XL headache
The Obama administration rejected the proposed route for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would stretch from Canada to the Gulf coast, but said the companies behind the project could reapply. The White House wants to delay a final decision on the issue, which has pitted environmentalists against those who say it will create thousands of jobs, until after November’s election. See article
Wikipedia and other websites shut down their operations for 24 hours to protest against an online piracy bill in Congress that they argue will curtail internet freedoms and give big media companies the power to have sites closed down that infringe copyright. See article
Jon Huntsman withdrew from the race to be the Republicans’ presidential candidate. A moderate, Mr Huntsman had failed to attract much support from Republican primary voters. In his withdrawal speech he called for an end to party bickering and endorsed Mitt Romney, whom he described last October as a “perfectly lubricated weather vane” on important issues. See article
Sarah Palin did Mr Romney’s longer-term presidential ambitions no harm by endorsing Newt Gingrich in the South Carolina primary, which is being held on January 21st.