BBC news 2010-01-26

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2010-01-26 BBC

BBC News with Michael Powles

Saddam Hussein's right hand man, Ali Hassan al-Majeed, better known as Chemical Ali, has been executed in Iraq. Last week, he received his fourth death sentence for his most notorious acts, ordering a poison gas attack in the Kurdish village of Halabja. The Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki called Mr al-Majeed one of the bloodiest evil-doers of the Saddam-era. From Baghdad, Jim Muir reports.

As Saddam Hussein's chief enforcer, Ali Hassan al-Majeed spearheaded brutal campaigns against both the Kurds in the north and the Shi'ites in the south. But it was for Halabja that the Kurds wanted to see him hanged. On his orders, chemical bombs were dropped on the town in March 1998, killing at least 5,000. With his execution, both the Kurds and the Shi'ites may begin to feel a chapter has been closed, although the wounds will take much longer to heal.

There has been a series of bomb attacks in the center of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, targeting hotels popular with western business people and journalists. Police sources say at least 36 people have been killed and more than 70 injured. Reports say they were set off in cars by suicide bombers. There were coordinated bomb attacks on official buildings in Baghdad last year.

The Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said it will take more than a decade to rebuild Haiti after this month's devastating earthquake that killed at least 150,000 people. Mr. Harper is hosting talks in Montreal on reconstructing the island nation. He said international donors must provide more than just emergency relief.

"Sustainability is key. We need to commit to Haiti for the long term. It is not an exaggeration to say that 10 years of hard work at least awaits the world in Haiti. We need to focus on effectiveness. The Haitian people deserve it, and our own taxpayers expect it."

Earlier, the Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said his government could lead the rebuilding, but he added it would need to rely strongly on its international partners.

The authorities in Nigeria said they had arrested more than 300 people in connection with the violence between Christians and Muslims in Plateau state. A police spokesman said they would be prosecuted in the city of Jos, the scene of most of the clashes. Officials now say 326 people died in the violence, although medical workers have put the figure far higher. Caroline Duffield reports from Abuja.

Until now, local authorities have refused to give details of the number of people shot, burned and hacked to death in the violence of the last week. The figures that they have now released will be greeted with skepticism. The violence has been intense and widespread. People, who lived through the attacks of November 2008, just over a year ago, say that this time it was worse. Villages, markets, settlements and suburbs have all been burned and destroyed.

This is Michael Powles with the latest World News from London and the BBC.

The Afghan President Hamid Karzai says he will propose lifting United Nations sanctions against some Taliban leaders at an international conference on Afghanistan in London later this week. He said he believed his western allies backed his plans for reconciliation with those Taliban who were not allied with al-Qaeda. Mr Karzai was speaking in Turkey where he and the Pakistani president were holding talks on how to tackle the Taliban insurgency.

The Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr says the Ethiopian plane that crashed off the coast of the country earlier today with 90 people on board was probably brought down by bad weather. It took off during a heavy storm. The search has been going on in the Mediterranean since the crash. More than 20 bodies have been recovered so far. Ethiopia has, meanwhile, declared a national day of mourning. / reports from Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia's Communications Minister Bereket Simon says the government will bring back the bodies of every Ethiopian who was on the plane that crashed. And the board of Ethiopian Airlines has been meeting for most of the day to work out their response and how best to support the families of the passengers. While Lebanon has ruled out any foul play, authorities here in Ethiopia say they want it with a conclusive report on the cause of the crash.

Some news just in, participants at the conference on reconstructing Haiti after the devastating earthquake have agreed to organize a donors' conference in March.

The United States Supreme Court has refused to block the extradition to France of the former leader of Panama Manuel Noriega. After completing a 17-year sentence in the United States, Mr. Noriega appealed against extradition to France where he was convicted in absentia on money laundering charges. He was arrested and charged after American troops invaded Panama in 1989.

Briefly, the authorities in Peru are sending helicopters to rescue some 2,000 tourists who were stranded by heavy rains of the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.

And that's the latest BBC News.