BBC news 2010-07-15

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2010-07-15 BBC

BBC News with Marian Marshall.

Renewed safety fears have forced the oil company BP to delay its latest efforts to stop the oil leak that's been polluting the Gulf of Mexico since April. BP is having to postpone the testing of a newly-installed cap which is supposed to block the leaking well. Our correspondent in Washington is Paul Adams.

Twenty four hours ago, BP was poised to begin its potentially-decisive pressure test. Now, amid renewed safety fears, that test has been postponed and may not happen at all. The oil company's chief operating officer Doug Suttles has told Associated Press that BP is trying to resolve the government's concerns which appear to centre around whether or not the test could actually do more harm than good. Any damage to the well casing caused by increased pressure could jeopardize the success of two relief wells which, it's hoped, will finally plug the leak sometime in August. And since BP expects to have enough vessels on site within a week to collect all the gushing oil, it seems that caution is now the name of the game.

The new head of Britain's armed forces is to be the current army chief, General David Richards. Last month, the general called for talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan. The previous combined services chief was from the Royal Air Force. Caroline Wyatt reports.

General Sir David Richards commanded NATO troops in Afghanistan in 2006 to 2007, the first foreigner since the World War II to command US forces. Until now in charge of the army, General Richards will take up his post at a crucial time in Afghanistan with the campaign going through one of its toughest phases. His appointment will be welcomed by the army in particular, which has long argued that the head of the forces should come from their ranks, when soldiers are bearing the brunt of the combat in Helmand. Many say the top priority now must be sustaining Britain's commitment in Afghanistan, but General Sir David Richards will also have to ensure that Britain's exit, when it finally comes, does not look like a defeat.

Defence officials in Washington say the United States and South Korea are planning joint military exercises. The Americans say they are intended to deliver a clear message of deterrence to North Korea. James Hodges has the details.

The American secretaries of state and defence, Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates, are flying to South Korea next week to finalize agreement on the exercises. American officials say the plans include air and naval operations in the Sea of Japan and in the Yellow Sea where a South Korean vessel was sunk earlier this year. An international inquiry concluded that North Korea had torpedoed the vessel, killing nearly 50 South Korean sailors. The North denies responsibility. But the United States seems determined to keep up the pressure.

A study over five years by Italian cancer specialists has found a link between electromagnetic radiation from Vatican Radio transmitters just north of Rome and a high level of cancers in children in nearby towns and villages. A judge commissioned the study after years of arguments. The Vatican says it will challenge the conclusions.

World News from the BBC.

An inquest in Britain has rejected claims that a wealthy Egyptian business man was murdered. Ashraf Marwan fell from the balcony of his London apartment in 2007. Israeli media describe Mr Marwan as a double agent loyal to Egypt just before the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Here is Caroline Hawley.

The mystery of the life and death of Ashraf Marwan has gripped the Middle East. The 63-year-old Egyptian is suspected of being a double agent who spied for Israel, and his family has always insisted his fall from a fourth-floor balcony three years ago was not an accident. During the inquest, his widow, the daughter of the former Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, spoke of his fears of assassination. But the coroner said there was absolutely no evidence of either murder or suicide. There were though, he said, many unanswered questions over Ashraf Marwan's death.

The Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has warned that more budget cuts will be necessary to restore the country to economic growth. In an annual address to parliament, Mr Zapatero reminded Spaniards elated by the country's recent victory in the football World Cup that the economic situation remained tough.

"Although we have lived days of collective joy, this has been a very difficult year. Many citizens have lost their jobs or have closed their businesses. Many people feel uncertain about the future and about our individual and collective welfare."

Mr Zapatero said the pension age would have to rise to 67 from 65.

Members of a native American lacrosse team say the United States authorities have relented to allow the players to fly to Britain for the world championships. The State Department had refused to let the players use special passports issued to the Iroquois people. Canadian team members are still having problems with their passports.

BBC News