BBC news 2010-07-24

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BBC news 2010-07-24

BBC News with Fiona MacDonald

European Union officials say just seven of 91 European banks have failed test of their financial strength. The checks were designed to see if individual banks needed to raise capital against future losses in case of a new recession. Our economics correspondent Andrew Walker reports.

The stress tests, as they are called, looked at what would happen to European banks if there were a renewed recession and a further worsening of the government debt crisis. The question was whether their capital, a kind of financial cushion, would fall below a particular threshold. Seven have failed their test - five savings banks in Spain, a German property market lender and one Greek bank. No large bank has failed. European leaders hope the test will restore confidence in the banks. But there are already questions about whether they were stringent enough.

A court in the Netherlands has found a multinational company, Trafigura, guilty of illegally exporting toxic waste from the European Union to Africa. The company was fined more than a million dollars for shipping waste to Ivory Coast where it was dumped around the largest city Abidjan. Tens of thousands of people fell ill, overwhelming the city's medical facilities. Trafigura said it was disappointed and would study a ruling with a view to appeal. The environmental campaign group Greenpeace said the Dutch court decision was a strong warning that illegal waste exports would not go unpunished.

Soldiers in Mexico have uncovered a mass grave containing at least 18 bodies in the northern state of Nuevo Leon. Vanessa Buschschluter of our America's desk reports.

Security forces said an anonymous tip-off led them to the site which is almost the size of a football pitch. Investigators said they believed drug gangs had used the remote spot to torture and execute their victims. Police are now using diggers to search for more bodies. In the past weeks, two other such graves have been discovered in Nuevo Leon which is at the centre of a violent battle between rival drug gangs. Over the past three years, more than 200 people have disappeared in the border state.

The former British Justice Secretary Jack Straw said he won't appear at a Senate hearing in the United States on the release of the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. The hearing is to examine whether lobbying by the oil company BP had a role in Mr Megrahi's release last year. Mr Straw said the decision had been taken by the Scottish government, and he could throw no light on the matter.

"I literally had nothing whatever to do with that. It was an entirely separate decision for the Scottish justice secretary. He and Alex Salmond, the first minister in Scotland, made quite clear that they had no representations from the British government or from BP in respect of that, and as it happens, I learnt about Mr Megrahi's imminent release whilst I was on holiday from the BBC website."

World News from the BBC

The African Union says Guinea is ready to send a battalion of soldiers to Somalia to boost the African peacekeeping force there. The AU did not give an exact number for the contingent, but our East Africa correspondent says it could be as many as 1,700 soldiers. That would take the number of peacekeepers in Somalia to just over 8,000, the figure originally pledged by the AU.

Switzerland's famous tourist train, the Glacier Express, has derailed during its spectacular passage through the Alps. One person was killed and more than 40 injured. Police said most of the passengers were Japanese. The cause of the accident isn't known, and rail accidents are extremely rare in Switzerland. The last serious one in 2006 killed three people.

An unmanned solar-powered plane has set a new record by staying airborne continuously for more than two weeks. The plane, the Zephyr, was launched from a United States army base in Arizona. It landed safely after its British developers, QinetiQ, decided nothing would be proved by keeping it in the air any longer. Nick Higham reports.

The plane comfortably beat the previous records for continuous flight without refuelling - nine days for a piloted aircraft, just 30 hours for an unmanned craft like Zephyr. The plane is powered during the day by paper-thin solar panels on the wings and at night by lightweight batteries recharged each day. The test flight was also a military trial of the plane's payload, communications relay equipment which could be used on the battlefield in Afghanistan or in civilian applications.

A Roman Catholic diocese in Italy has denounced homosexual priests who are leading what it called "a double life" and urged them to leave the priesthood. The statement was issued by the Rome Diocese in response to a magazine article which gave details of alleged sexual encounters by three homosexual priests. The article also carries pictures and interviews with the men.

BBC News