February 10, 2013

Massive pro-Islamist demonstrations in downtown Tunis and New England digs out from underneath of massive snowstorm. I'm David Byrd reporting from Washington.

Thousands of Tunisians rallied in support of the ruling Islamist Ennahda Party even as Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali threatened to resign if his proposal to appoint a non-political cabinet of technocrats was rejected.

Prime Minister Jebali told the France 24 news channel Saturday that he would appoint a new cabinet by the middle of next week, saying that new independent ministers are needed to save Tunisia from what he called "chaos." The prime minister said he is ready to resign if he does not receive broad political support.

The ruling Ennahda Party held a massive demonstration in Tunis Saturday aimed at showing support for the constitutional assembly. The work of that assembly on a new constitution was disrupted when opposition leader Chokri Belaid was gunned down earlier this week outside his home.

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The United States is commending Yemen for seizing a ship loaded with Iranian-supplied weapons apparently headed for rebels in the north.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Saturday a Yemeni government investigation shows the weapons were loaded onto the vessel in Iran.

The US Navy and Yemen's Coast Guard stopped the ship last month in the Arabian Sea. It was packed with weapons, including portable anti-aircraft missiles, mortars, and rocket-propelled grenades.

The UN Security Council is preparing to consider a report on Somalis from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that includes options and recommendations for a future UN role in the country.

The UN special envoy to Somalia said earlier this week that [Security Council] a Security Council meeting on the recommendations will take place within the coming week.

Somalia went for more than 20 years without a stable central government until UN-backed efforts to form a new government succeeded last year.

The northeastern United States, including the cities of New York and Boston, is digging out from a massive snowstorm driven by hurricane-force wind gusts. As VOA's Kent Klein reports the storm left hundreds of thousands without power and roads are clogged with abandoned vehicles.

The most severe blizzard in decades blasted New York and the six New England states Friday and Saturday, leaving vehicles stranded and residents without electricity. At least five deaths have been blamed on the storm.

More than 650,000 homes and businesses in the region were without power, and officials say the lights may not be back on for several days.

Airports in New York and Boston were beginning to reopen on Saturday after more than 5,000 flights were canceled.

Drivers including some emergency workers were trapped on snow-bound highways throughout the night.

Experts say this storm could be as severe as the blizzard of 1978, which shut down New England for days. Kent Klein, VOA news, Washington.

US President Barack Obama says he wants Congress to avoid a series of what he called "harmful, automatic cuts" that would threaten thousands of Americans' jobs if the politicians do not make changes to the country's budget by March 1.

Mr Obama called on lawmakers in his weekly address Saturday to make what he called "sensible changes" to reach the $4-trillion deficit reduction needed to stabilize the country's economy.

"At a time when economists and business leaders from across the spectrum have said that our economy is poised for progress, we shouldn't allow self-inflicted wounds to put that progress in jeopardy.

So my message to Congress is this: Let's keep working together to solve this problem. And let's give our workers and our businesses the support they need to grow and to thrive."

In a weekly Republican address, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski said the US is entering an era of energy abundance. However, Murkowski said energy projects are too often held back "by burdensome regulations, delayed permits and overzealous litigation."

A Moscow court has ordered prominent opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov to be placed under house arrest for allegedly inciting mass disorder. Udaltsov must stay inside his Moscow apartment for the next two months. He is forbidden from using the telephone or the Internet. He was banned from leaving Moscow last year.

For more on these stories, please log on to our website voanews.com. I'm David Byrd in Washington.