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BBC news with Nick Kelly.
The Palestinians have formally applied to join International Criminal Court, a step that both Israel and the US would expect to oppose vigorously. The submission of the ICC membership application by the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas could open the way for investigations into alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza and the West bank. Alan Johnston reports. “After years of failed peace negotiations with Israel, the Palestinian leadership under Mahmoud Abbas is determined to open up a new front by applying to join the ICC, is hoping to be able to drag Israel into the dock for its alleged crimes in occupied territories. As expected, there has been a swift and angry response from Israelis, who’ve threatened unspecified countermeasures. And the Palestinian move to join the court could lead to attempts to prosecute their militant groups, like Hamas, for alleged breaches of international law.”
Migrants on the Moldovan cargo ship seized by the Italian authorities have told dramatic stories of how they were abandoned by people traffickers. Coastguards took control of the vessel as it neared Italy's rocky southern coast with more than 900 migrants onboard. The freighter has now docked in southern Italy. From where, James Reynolds reports. “The passengers of the Blue Sky M have a strange terrifying story to tell. They each paid smugglers to hide them onboard the cargo ship. During the journey, their crew abandoned them, and locked the steering. The Italian coastguards flew in to take control of the ship before it crashed into the shore. In the end, they made it. And the investigation into how the Blue Sky M came to be used for smuggling is now beginning.”
An Italian prosecutor says nearly 100 people are still unaccounted for after a passenger ferry was engulfed by fire on Sunday on a voyage from Greece. Plans to tow the Norman Atlantic to an Italian port have been put on hold until the weather improves. Ben Lowings has more. “The prosecutor Giuseppe Volpe says it's not clear how many people are missing. He says officials in Italy and Greece have not properly counted the numbers of registered passengers stowed away and survived. Plans to tow the ship Norman Atlantic to an Italian port have been put in haul until weather improves. Eleven passengers were killed as the result of the fire, 2 Albanian sailors died trying to attach a towing cable. The ferry's captain has been questioned on charges of manslaughter and negligence.”
The German Chancellor Angela Merkel has strongly condemned Russia's actions in Ukraine in her new year's address. She said Russian move has questioned the foundation of Europe's faithful order, and warned that the EU would not tolerate such behavior.
The United States has said it's deeply concerned about reports that several high profile Cuban dissidents were detained ahead of a planned protest in Havana's Revolution Square on Tuesday. Organizers said the protest was aimed at testing the tolerance of Cuba's communist government following the announcement two weeks ago that the US and Cuba would normalize relations.
The authorities in Liberia say they are temporarily lifting a curfew that was imposed to stop the spread of Ebola to allow church-goers to celebrate New Year's eve. Liberia introduced the curfew in September. The deputy information minister said President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had ordered the curfew to be suspended for one night.
A major fireworks display will assure in the New Year for the first time in the mainly Muslim north of Nigeria. Around 2,000 people were expected to attend the event in a newly-built sports complex in the city of Kano. Our Africa editor Richard Hamilton reports. “As the New Year is not part of the Muslim calendar, this event is a ground-breaking novelty for northern Nigeria. An extravagance of music, arts, and traditional dancing will precede the countdown to midnight when fireworks were lighted up to the sky. But in view of Boko Haram's campaign of violence across the region, security is tight. The complex is surrounded by a series of checkpoints and cars have to park some distances away. It's been a dark year for northern Nigeria, but its hope the guests and television audience will be able to celebrate the new year as freely as other parts of the world.”
And Pope Francis has used an end of year harmony to denounce corruption in Rome. Speaking in St. Peter's basilica, the Pope said the practice was an attack on the poor and vulnerable, demanding moral and spiritual renew in the city. Police are currently investigating certain Roman officials accused to having mafia links and embezzling public funds, including money ear-marked for migrant centers. BBC news.