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In campaign, Romney rarely notes Mexican heritage

COLONIA JUAREZ, Mexico (iBBC News) — Mitt Romney leaves out one tiny detail as he campaigns to win Florida's Hispanic vote: his Mexican heritage.

The Republican presidential candidate's father, George, was born in Mexico. Extended relatives still live in the border state of Chihuahua. The second-cousins he has never met speak American-accented English and share the family's last name and Mormon faith.

Those who are eligible to vote in the U.S. say they plan to support Romney. They may even donate money to his campaign.

His relatives generally see him as a smart businessman who can lead America's economic turnaround. But they differ on immigration. Romney has taken a tough stance against illegal immigration into the U.S. His relatives say migrants looking for work across the border should be given a legal means to do so.

Ethiopia: Journalists, politicians get jail time

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (iBBC News) — An Ethiopian judge on Thursday handed down prison sentences ranging from 14 years to life to three journalists and two politicians.

The five were arrested last year and charged last week under Ethiopia's controversial anti-terrorism laws. Ethiopian officials had said they were involved in planning attacks on infrastructure, telecommunications and power lines.

Judge Endeshaw Adane gave the verdicts Thursday.

Ethiopia's federal high court found Elias Kifle, editor-in-chief of a U.S.-based opposition website, guilty of terrorism. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. Kifle was tried in absentia.

The judge gave prison sentences of 14 years for Wubshet Taye, deputy editor-in-chief of the recently closed-down weekly Awramba Times, and Reeyot Alemu, a columnist of independent weekly Feteh.

Opposition politician Zerihun Gebre Egziabher was sentenced to 17 years in prison, and the other opposition member, Hirut Kifle, was sentenced to 19 years.

After hearing his punishment Zerihun turned to the judge and said: "I am innocent and I will prove it."

Reeyot's lawyer, Molla Zegeye, said his client will appeal. He also said he had never expected the sentence to be this severe.

"She didn't commit a terrorism crime. She is a professional journalist," he said of Reeyot.

The maximum sentence for terrorism under Ethiopia's anti terrorism laws is capital punishment.

International rights groups have been calling for the release of the journalists.

Amnesty International's Ethiopia researcher, Claire Beston, said shortly after the sentencing that the five are jailed for political reasons and must be released "immediately and unconditionally."

"There is no evidence that they are guilty of any criminal wrongdoing," she said. "They are being imprisoned on the basis of their legitimate exercise of freedom of expression and involvement with calls for peaceful protest to take place."

Leslie Lefkow, Africa researcher for the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said: "This is a tragedy for these individuals, a miscarriage of justice and a dismal reflection of the state of the Ethiopian judiciary. It appears to be impossible to get a fair trial in a political case in Ethiopia today."

Ethiopia recently found two Swedish reporters guilty of supporting terrorism and sentenced them to eleven years imprisonment.

In a separate court case, blogger Eskinder Nega, who had called for peaceful protest, faces the maximum punishment, a death penalty sentence, after a judge on Jan. 23 found him guilty on terror charges.

"I'm innocent," he yelled at reporters outside the courtroom after the hearing.

Ethiopia has arrested close to 200 people, among them journalists and opposition politicians and members, under last year's anti-terrorism proclamation.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, more journalists have fled Ethiopia than any other country in the world.

Poll: Perry's Texas ratings down after failed run

AUSTIN, Texas (iBBC News) — Gov. Rick Perry's approval rating in Texas has fallen to a 10-year low since his failed presidential bid, putting him on a par with President Barack Obama in his own home state.

More than half of the people who responded to a statewide poll don't want Perry to run for another term as governor and 45 percent said his failed campaign for the Republican nomination for president hurt Texas' image.

The poll conducted Jan. 21-24 was conducted for The Dallas Morning News, the Austin American Statesman, the San Antonio Express-News, the Houston Chronicle and the Fort Worth Star Telegram. The newspapers published the poll results Thursday.

Forty percent of Texans approve of the job he's doing as governor, a 10-point drop from a year ago and less than Obama's 43 percent statewide approval rating, according to the poll. The Fort Worth Star Telegram said the Democratic president's approval ratings have showed little change in the past two years.

Another 40 percent said they disapprove of the job Perry is doing.

The poll found 53 percent said they don't want Perry to run for a fourth full term in 2014. Since ended his campaign last week, Perry staff have said he could run for another term as governor.

According to the poll, Perry has lost ground among Republicans in a state dominated by the GOP. His approval rating among Republicans dipped from 73 percent to 60 percent, and among independents he fell from nearly half to 27 percent. Until earlier this month at the Iowa caucuses, Perry had never lost an election.

Perry ran for president as a socially conservative candidate and he boasted about his job-creation efforts and the economy in his home state. But he stumbled badly with several flubs on the campaign trail, including his notorious "oops" moment in a nationally televised debate when he couldn't remember all three federal agencies he said he wants to cut.

The poll found 45 percent of Texans think his run hurt Texas' image nationally while only 17 percent said it improved.

The random telephone survey of 806 Texans, including 669 registered voters, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

US panel mulls merge of NFL concussion suits

MIAMI (iBBC News) — An attorney for the NFL says former players should not be allowed to sue for damages over concussions they suffered because player safety issues are governed by the league's collective bargaining agreement.

NFL lawyer Beth Wilkinson said Thursday there are now 21 lawsuits filed in six states by more than 300 former players over head injuries. Some players are also suing helmet maker Riddell.

A federal judicial panel held a hearing in Miami on whether to consolidate the lawsuits before a single judge for pretrial matters. The leading choice is a judge in Philadelphia, where the first lawsuit was filed.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation typically issues decisions within a few weeks

Plaintiffs include former stars Ottis Anderson, Mark Duper, Tony Dorsett, Jim McMahon, Lem Barney and others.

Pa. carjack-hoax mom gets 8 years for $1M fraud

PHILADELPHIA (iBBC News) — The in-vitro treatments. The suburban house. The lavish trips and dinners out.

None of it was worth it, a soccer mom-turned-"abduction hoax" mom told a federal judge Thursday before she was sentenced to more than eight years in prison for a $1 million swindle.

Bonnie Sweeten, 40, of Feasterville, is infamous for an alarming 911 call that claimed she and her 9-year-old daughter had been carjacked by two black men. She said they'd been stuffed into the trunk of another vehicle. She made an equally furtive call to her second husband.

Sweeten, who is white, was instead on her way to the airport with her middle child in May 2009, about to use a co-worker's passport to board a flight to Florida. She feared an arrest looming in the fraud scheme. The FBI found the pair unharmed the next day at Disney World.

"I wanted something so bad that I would do whatever I had to do to get it," Sweeten said Thursday. "When you go to prison, you realize you don't need anything monetary. You don't need any of it."

Sweeten's voice cracked when she apologized for stealing $280,000 from an elderly relative after gaining access to his retirement account papers at her former mother-in-law's home. She and the woman were extremely close.

"My actions were cruel and sick. What I did was wrong to (law firm) clients as well, but to do it to family, I'm very ashamed of myself," said Sweeten, a paralegal who stole $640,000 from the one-lawyer firm where she worked and took out a $150,000 loan on the lawyer's real estate. She has already spent a year in prison for the fake 911 call.

Sweeten had developed elaborate means to steal the money, doctoring up a judge's order for law firm clients; telling her husband she had gotten a law degree, leading him to throw a party; and posing as her boss at the refinancing of the woman's property.

"Her conduct has shown that, at her core, she is a criminal," Assistant U.S. Attorney Denise Wolf argued in court. "She is a master con artist."

Sweeten and her husband, a self-employed landscaper, were spending $4,000 a month on their $400,000 mortgage and another $8,000 a month through debit purchases, according to the FBI.

A co-worker wondered how she could afford frequent trips and dinner out several nights a week. And she was going through expensive fertility treatments to try to have another child with her new husband, only to suffer what she called "countless" miscarriages.

At least one friend thought "she was trying to please her husband by providing them with things they could not afford," U.S. District Judge William H. Yohn Jr. said, citing a letter he received.

Sweeten has been in custody since June 2009, just weeks after the daughter she eventually had with husband Larry Sweeten turned 1. She served nearly a year in state prison for the 911 hoax, and has been in federal custody since then. With time served, she'll be eligible for release in 2018.

"Visiting an infant, a toddler in prison — I know it's what I deserve. It's not what she deserves," Sweeten said of her youngest child.

She talks daily with her two older girls, but has missed their proms and her oldest daughter's college search. She'll now miss that daughter's high school graduation, she said.

She thanked both former husbands for stepping in to raise the girls, noting their considerable financial hardship. Neither was in court. Sweeten will owe nearly $1.1 million in restitution when she leaves prison.

Her longtime boss, lawyer Debbie Carlitz, listened intently to her courtroom apologies, but later declined to comment. Sweeten steered many of Carlitz's paychecks to her own bank account. Carlitz didn't miss them because her husband at the time was wealthy, she testified.

Sweeten also stole settlement money owed to clients, then stole from her family when the clients complained. She admitted Thursday she was "robbing Peter to pay Paul." When the scheme snowballed out of control, she fled.

"And then one day I'm missing. And it all came out after that," Sweeten said Thursday.

To her surprise, some friends and relatives remained supportive.

"So why didn't I go to them in the beginning and tell them I needed ... help?" she wondered.

Public defender James McHugh argued that a painkiller addiction tripped up the once law-abiding mother and school volunteer. He said she has suffered enough, given the demise of her second marriage and the years lost with her children. He said she has turned a corner in prison and is now a mentor to other women inmates.

"Ms. Sweeten is not the same person she was when she committed these crimes," McHugh said.

Monster to cut 400 jobs to cope with weak economy

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Job listing company Monster Worldwide Inc. said Thursday it would cut its global workforce by 400 people, or 7 percent, as the weak economy hurts its business.

The cuts, along with other planned moves, are expected to save $100 million per year. They were announced as Monster reported fourth-quarter net income that fell short of analysts' expectations, even as it slashed payroll and marketing costs to cope with a revenue decline.

Its outlook for the current quarter was also well below analysts' expectations and shares plunged $1.61, or 18 percent, to $7.37 in afternoon trading.

Net income in the three months to Dec. 31 came to $10.9 million, or 9 cents per share, from $501,000, or about break-even per share, a year ago.

Excluding items such as restructuring costs, adjusted earnings came to 11 cents per share, a penny shy of the 12 cents expected by analysts polled by FactSet.

Revenue fell 2 percent to $250 million from $255 million, also below the $259 million expected by analysts.

The company said it expects first-quarter adjusted earnings of break-even to 4 cents per share. Analysts expect 9 cents per share.

It forecast a bookings decline of 6 to 10 percent, with revenue estimated down 3 to 7 percent. That suggests revenue of $254 million to $243 million, below the $262.5 million expected by analysts.

For all of 2011, Monster reported net income of $54 million, or 54 cents per share, compared with a loss of $32 million, or 27 cents per share, in 2010. Revenue increased 14 percent to $1.04 billion.

Iran university says US has arrested scientist

WASHINGTON (iBBC News) — The U.S. has arrested and charged an Iranian semiconductor scientist with importing U.S. lab equipment to Iran.

The move is likely to raise tensions between the two countries.

Seyed Mojtaba Atarodi, 54, is a microchip expert and assistant professor at Tehran's prestigious Sharif University of Technology. He was arrested after arriving in Los Angeles for a visit Dec. 7.

Records show Atarodi was named in a sealed indictment. The Iranian interests section, located in Pakistan's embassy in Washington, confirms the arrest.

Panetta: US ground forces would be cut by 100,000

WASHINGTON (iBBC News) — Pentagon leaders outlined a plan Thursday for absorbing $487 billion in defense cuts over the coming decade by shrinking U.S. ground forces, slowing the purchase of a next-generation stealth fighter and retiring older planes and ships.

In a bid to pre-empt election-year Republican criticism, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the plan shifts the Pentagon's focus from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to future challenges in Asia, the Mideast and in cyberspace. More special operations forces like the Navy SEALs who killed Osama bin Laden will be available around the world, he said.

"Our approach was to use this as an opportunity to maintain the strongest military in the world, to not hollow out the force," he said in a statement prepared for a Pentagon news conference. Some lawmakers were quick to dispute him.

"Taking us back to a pre-9/11 military force structure places our country in grave danger," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee that will hold hearings on the Pentagon budget plan.

Panetta announced that the administration will request a 2013 budget of $525 billion, plus another $88 billion for operations in Afghanistan. Combined, those totals are about $33 billion less than the Pentagon is spending this year.

Panetta said, however, that the Pentagon's base budget will grow to $567 billion in 2017. At that point, the cumulative budgets over five years would be $259 billion less than had been planned before the administration struck a deficit-cutting deal with Congress last summer that requires projected defense spending to be reduced by $487 billion by 2022.

Among the details Panetta disclosed:

The Army would shrink by 80,000 soldiers, from 570,000 today to 490,000 by 2017. That is slightly larger than the Army on 9/11.

The Marine Corps would drop from today's 202,000 to 182,000 — also above the level on 9/11.

The Air Force would retire some older planes including about two dozen C-5A cargo aircraft and 65 of its oldest C-130 cargo planes.

The Navy would keep a fleet of 11 aircraft carriers but retire seven cruisers earlier than planned. It also would delay purchase of some other ships, including a new Virginia-class submarine.

Purchase of F-35 stealth fighter jets, to be fielded by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, would be slowed.

Current plans for building a new generation of submarines that carry long-range nuclear missiles would be delayed by two years. The current fleet of nuclear-capable bombers and land-based nuclear missiles would be left unchanged.

Military pay raises will remain on track until 2015, when the pace of increase will be slowed by an undetermined amount.

President Barack Obama will ask Congress to approve a new round of domestic base closures, although the timing of this was left vague and there is little chance that lawmakers would agree to this in a presidential election year.

The defense spending plan is scheduled to be submitted to Congress as part of the administration's full 2013 budget on Feb. 13.

Prominent in the Obama plan is a renewed focus on Asia, where China's rapid military modernization has raised worry in Washington and rattled U.S. allies.

The Pentagon has embraced a proposal by special operations chief Adm. Bill McRaven to send more manpower and equipment to worldwide "Theater Special Operations Commands" to strike back wherever threats arise, according to a senior defense official who spoke to The Associated Press, and other current and former U.S. officials briefed on the program. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the details of the proposal are still being worked out, including how fast the changes could be made.

The stepped-up network would put top special operations personnel closer to the problems they face, better able to launch unilateral raids like this week's Somalia mission. McRaven also wants the newly invigorated commands to build new relationships with foreign armies to help them lead their own operations, the senior defense official said.

Panetta also has made clear the administration will resist any effort to shrink the Navy's fleet of aircraft carriers. He said last weekend while on board the fleet's oldest carrier, the USS Enterprise, that keeping 11 of the warships is a "long-term commitment" that Obama believes is important to keeping the peace.

"Our view is that the carriers, because of their presence, because of the power they represent, are a very important part of our ability to maintain power projection both in the Pacific and in the Middle East," he said.

Obama has said he hopes to further reduce the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, but Panetta said the basic structure — a "triad" of land, sea and air nuclear forces — will be maintained. The Pentagon said it will study the potential to shrink that force later.

The defense budget is being reshaped in the midst of a presidential contest in which Obama seeks to portray himself as a forward-looking commander in chief focusing on new security threats. Republicans want to cast him as weak on defense.

Obama has highlighted his national security successes — the killing of Osama bin Laden, the death of senior al-Qaida leaders and the demise of Libya's Moammar Gadhafi — to counter Republican criticism. He also has emphasized the completion of the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq and the start of a drawdown in Afghanistan as turning points that offer new opportunities to scale back defense spending.

But several congressional Republicans see a political opening in challenging the reductions in projected military spending that the GOP and Obama agreed to last summer as part of a deal to raise the nation's borrowing authority. They've echoed Obama's potential presidential rivals Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, who plead for fiscal austerity but contend that sizable cuts would gut the military.

Prince Fielder introduced by Detroit Tigers

DETROIT (iBBC News) — Prince Fielder has been introduced by the Detroit Tigers, a team desperate to win its first World Series title since 1984.

Fielder appeared at a news conference at Comerica Park on Thursday after finalizing a $214 million, nine-year contract, the fourth-largest deal in baseball history.

The big first baseman will combine with Miguel Cabrera to give the Tigers perhaps the most formidable Nos. 3-4 hitters in the major leagues. But with Cabrera shifting to third, it also will give Detroit a potentially troublesome defense at the infield corners.

Fielder was seated at a dais along with owner Mike Illitch, manager Jim Leyland, GM Dave Dombrowski and agent Scott Boras.

Dombrowski called it "a very exciting time for this city" as Fielder was given his Tigers jersey.

Golf-Mallon named U.S. Solheim Cup captain for 2013

Jan 26 (iBBC News) - Meg Mallon, an 18-times winner on

the LPGA Tour, was announced on Thursday as United States

captain for the 2013 Solheim Cup to be held in Parker, Colorado.

A veteran of eight Solheim Cups as a player, Mallon takes

over from Rosie Jones who captained the U.S. last year at

Killeen Castle in Dunsany, Ireland where they lost to Europe

15-13.

"Each (Solheim Cup as a player) has been a proud moment for

me, but to represent the United States as team captain

definitely caps off my career," Mallon, 48, said in an LPGA

statement. "I look forward to working hard on getting the Cup

back in U.S. hands."

Mallon, a four-times major champion, has a 13-9-7 career

record as a Solheim Cup player and served as an assistant

captain to Beth Daniel in 2009.

The 13th edition of the Solheim Cup will be played at

Colorado Golf Club from Aug. 16-18 next year.

The Americans, who have never lost on home soil, lead 8-4 in

the series, which is the women's equivalent of the men's Ryder

Cup where the top players from the United States face those of

Europe.

Merkel says Greek debt talks on "good path"

BERLIN (iBBC News) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday talks between the Greek government and its private creditors were on track but next Monday's EU summit would focus on how to boost growth and employment in Europe rather than Greece's predicament.

"(The talks) are on quite a good path. On that basis the second Greek programme will be drawn up, in which Greece also has to specify its additional obligations again," Merkel said at a news conference with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

But she added that the latest "troika" report on Greece by the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund would not be ready in time for the January 30 summit, which was specifically supposed to discuss growth anyway.

"We will not yet have the troika report for our summit on the 30th which means we will really talk about growth on Monday and try to conclude the fiscal pact," said Merkel.

"Finance ministers will try to make more progress on the issue of voluntary participation in Greece for next time. But we don't want to raise false expectations and we really do want to concentrate on growth," said the chancellor.

Merkel is also keen to avoid the summit being sidetracked by debate about whether extra funding should be funnelled into the euro zone bailout funds, as the International Monetary Fund and some euro states - including Italy and Spain - have suggested.

Rajoy, who a day earlier said "the bigger the better" on the issue of the size of the bailout funds, echoed Merkel's comments that the top priority was for the permanent European Stability Mechanism (ESM) to be made operational as soon as possible.

"Probably the bigger it is, the less likely it is that it will have to be used," he said. "But the most important thing is for us to have a mechanism now, and that it can start operating."

Merkel said Berlin was waiting for a ruling on whether the Commission should be able to file complaints against euro zone members that violate rules enshrined in the new fiscal pact she wants agreed by all EU states, except Britain which opted out.

"We have said we are going to ask the legal advice of the European Council again to explain in writing why they believe the Commission cannot sue," Merkel said.

Germany wants to give the Commission the right to take violators to the European Court of Justice, but there are doubts about whether that can be done under current legislation.

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QPR raid league leaders City for versatile Onuoha

LONDON (iBBC News) - New Queens Park Rangers manager Mark Hughes bolstered his back four for the second time this week after signing Manchester City defender Nedum Onuoha on Thursday.

England under-21 international Onuoha moved to Loftus Road 48 hours after Rangers signed Nigerian left back Taye Taiwo on loan from AC Milan.

Onuoha has agreed a four-and-half year deal and joins for an undisclosed fee, Rangers said on their website (www.qpr.co.uk).

The 25-year-old played for Hughes when he was City manager and the Welshman said: "He is very versatile. He can play centre back or right back, and has good pace. He is a very good addition to the squad.

"Nedum had other options but his experience with myself and the other guys here was a big factor in why he has come to us. I am pleased about that."

Onuoha made his City debut as a 17-year-old in 2004 but has found his playing time with the club increasingly limited in recent seasons. He spent last season on loan at Sunderland and had featured just three times for the Premier League leaders in the current campaign.

QPR, who returned to the top flight this season after a 15-year absence, are 16th in the 20-team Premier League and two points clear of the relegation zone.

Former Wales boss Hughes was appointed manager this month after Neil Warnock was sacked following a run of poor performances.

Nokia posts $1.38 billion loss in fourth quarter

HELSINKI (iBBC News) — Mobile phone maker Nokia Corp. on Thursday posted a fourth-quarter net loss of €1.07 billion ($1.38 billion) as sales slumped 21 percent even as the company's first Windows smartphones hit markets in Europe and Asia.

The loss compares with a profit of €745 million in the same period a year earlier.

Nokia said net revenue — including both its mobile phones and its network divisions — fell from €12.6 billion in the fourth quarter of 2010 to €10 billion, with smartphone sales plunging 23 percent.

Nokia has lost its once-dominant position in the global cell phone market, with Android phones and iPhones overtaking it in the growing smartphone segment.

The Finnish company is attempting a comeback with phones using Microsoft's Windows software — a struggle that Nokia CEO Stephen Elop characterized as a "war of ecoystems."

He said Nokia has sold "well over" 1 million such devices since their launch in the fourth quarter — in line with company expectations. The Lumia 710 and Lumia 800 hit stores in Europe and Asia in November while T-Mobile started offering the 710 in the U.S. in January.

"From this beachhead of more than 1 million Lumia devices, you will see us push forward with the sales, marketing and successive product introductions necessary to be successful," Elop said. "We also plan to bring the Lumia series to additional markets including China and Latin America in the first half of 2012."

The company's shares jumped more than 5 percent to €4.28 ($5.60) on the Helsinki Stock Exchange in early afternoon trading.

The company said it would not provide annual targets for 2012 as it was in a "year of transition" but added that it expects operating margins in the first quarter of this year to be "about break-even, ranging either above or below by approximately 2 percentage points."

It repeated the target of cutting costs by more than €1 billion by 2013.

Research: South Africans most active Tweeters

JOHANNESBURG (iBBC News) — New Research shows young people tweeting from Blackberries and iPhones are driving the growth of Twitter in Africa with South Africans by far the most vociferous.

Kenya-based Portland Communications and Tweetminster published the research Thursday indicating Twitter in Africa is widely used for social conversation and is fast becoming an important source of information.

The companies analyzed more than 11.5 million geographically pinpointed tweets originating on the continent during the last three months of 2011.

Research said that South Africans were the most prolific, followed by Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt and Morocco.

African Tweeters averaged 20 to 29 years, compared to 39 worldwide.

The companies said few African business and political leaders have joined the continent's Twittersphere.

Papua New Guinea premier rejects mutineers' demand

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (iBBC News) — Prime Minister Peter O'Neill refused to step down despite a mutiny Thursday by soldiers who seized Papua New Guinea's military headquarters and demanded that he cede power to his ousted predecessor.

Soldiers led by retired Col. Yuara Sasa put the country's top commander under house arrest in a bloodless, pre-dawn takeover — part of the power struggle in which both O'Neill and former Prime Minister Michael Somare claim to be the rightful leader of the South Pacific island nation.

Sasa told reporters in Port Moresby that O'Neill had seven days to comply with a Supreme Court order reinstating Somare "or I will be forced to take actions to uphold the integrity of the Constitution."

O'Neill, who appears to have the support of a majority of the country's lawmakers, later held a news conference to declare he was still fully in charge and to reject any demand to step down. He also implied that Sasa had been arrested.

"This government does not answer to one man calling on us to recall Parliament," O'Neill told reporters, adding that Parliament would resume on Feb. 14 as scheduled.

O'Neill said he remained in control of the nation, including the armed forces, and that Sasa had been "dealt with," but would not elaborate.

Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported that it believed Sasa had been detained.

O'Neill said the military commander, Brig. Gen. Francis Agwi, who was released from house arrest within hours of the mutiny, remained in charge of most of the military. Earlier, the government had called on Sasa's group to surrender and said the mutiny did not have support from the broader military.

Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah told reporters that about 30 soldiers were involved in the mutiny and that 15 of them have been arrested. Australian Associated Press reported up to 80 soldiers were involved.

Namah accused Somare of using "rogue soldiers to pursue his own greed and selfishness" and said Sasa could be charged with treason, which carries the death sentence.

Sasa, who last served as Papua New Guinea's defense attache to Indonesia before retiring from the military, told reporters he had been legitimately appointed defense chief by Somare.

Somare's spokeswoman and daughter, Betha Somare, said that his ousted Cabinet had confirmed Sasa's appointment several days ago.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard condemned the mutiny, saying in a written statement that the military has no place in Papua New Guinea's politics.

"It is critical therefore that this situation be resolved peacefully as soon as possible, with the PNG Defense Force chain of command restored," she added.

Somare was Papua New Guinea's first prime minister when it became independent in 1975, and was knighted by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. Papua New Guinea's Parliament replaced him with O'Neill in August, while Somare was getting medical treatment outside the country.

Last month, the country's Supreme Court and Governor-General Michael Ogio backed Somare, who the court ruled was illegally removed. But Ogio changed his mind days later, saying bad legal advice had led him to incorrectly reinstate Somare.

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