February 17, 2013

Sixty-three killed in Pakistani bombing. President Karzai to ban Afghan forces from requesting airstrikes. I'm Bill Michaels reporting from Washington.

Pakistani police says 63 people were killed and nearly 200 wounded in a bombing targeting Shiites in southwestern Pakistan.

A senior police officer says the bomb was detonated Saturday by remote control in a Shiite-dominated area of the city of Quetta. He says most of the victims were Shiite and that women and children were among those killed.

A spokesman for the banned Sunni group claimed responsibility for the blast.

Saturday's attack was the worst in Quetta since a series of bombings on January 10 in a Shiite-dominated area of the city killed 92 people.

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai says Afghan security forces will be banned from asking NATO forces to carry out airstrikes on residential areas.

In an address to officers at a military academy in Kabul, Mr Karzai said he will issue a decree today stating that under no circumstances can Afghan forces request airstrikes on homes or villages.

His announcement was an apparent reference to a NATO airstrike that killed 10 people, including women and children, in Kunar province Wednesday. Afghan forces requested the airstrike during a joint Afghan-US operation targeting Taliban fighters in the region.

Iran's supreme leader says his country is not seeking nuclear weapons, but if it wanted to, no country could stop it from doing so. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in all state matters in Iran, said Saturday that Iran supports the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Russian officials say a 10-ton meteor has fallen near the country's Ural Mountains, setting off blast with the force of at least 20 nuclear bombs. The explosions left more than 1,100 people injured. Jessica Golloher has the details from Moscow.

Witnesses describe objects that look like burning rocks racing across the sky for hundreds of kilometers, leaving a long, white vapor trail in their wake. The sonic boom and shock that followed early Friday shattered windows and set off car alarms.

Russia's Emergencies Ministry says the meteor exploded over the sparsely populated region east of the Ural Mountains.

Hundreds of people ended up in the hospital for minor injuries due to flying debris.

Vladimir Basmanikov is a surgeon. He says the wounds that people have received are mainly from windows and window frames. He says his hospital has treated 60 or 70 people.

Jessica Golloher, for VOA news, Moscow.

US President Barack Obama says a "thriving middle class" is the true engine of America's economic growth. Mr Obama said in his weekly address today, Americans must ask themselves three questions.

"How do we bring good jobs to America? How do we equip people with the skills those jobs require? And how do we make sure your hard work leads to a decent living?

I believe all that starts by making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing."

Representative Martha Roby in the Republican address at Congress must protect (the) country from devastating cuts set to take place March 1.

"In his State of the Union address, President Obama himself admitted that these cuts are a really bad idea. What the president failed to mention was that the sequester was his idea, prepared by his administration during the debt-limit negotiations in 2011."

Roby said that the president and Senate Democrats wanted to use so-called "sequester" to raise taxes.

Finance leaders from the world's top 20 industrial and developing countries have pledged not to target their change rates for competitive purposes.

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde echoed on Saturday the joint communiqué made by G20 members meeting in Moscow to "refrain from competitive devaluation" and keep markets open.

Japan already faces charges of lowering the value of the yen in order to gain an edge over other countries.

"There is a clear understanding on the part of both the US authorities and the Japanese authorities that the fiscal agenda is critical, is clearly the medium-term goal that has to be identified, that has to be supported, broadly in those countries in order to eliminate as much as possible the uncertainty."

For more on the G20 meeting, visit voanews.com.

Reporting from Washington, I'm Bill Michaels, VOA news.