BBC news 2011-08-06

BBC News with Gaenor Howells

The Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose country is at the centre of fears about the economic stability of the eurozone, has said he'll speed up a package of austerity measures. The move follows a week of turbulence on the financial markets. David Willey reports from Rome.

Mr Berlusconi called a sudden news conference to announce a series of steps being taken by his coalition government to stem speculation against Italy on international financial markets. Austerity measures planned to come into force in 2014 are being brought forward a whole year to 2013. They include unpopular tax hikes and a cap on state pensions. Mr Berlusconi plans to amend the Italian constitution, making it obligatory for future governments to run balanced budgets.

Syrian activists say the security forces have shot dead at least seven people during protests near the capital Damascus. They say another was killed in the city of Homs as demonstrators once again demanded President Assad's resignation. Jim Muir sent this report.

This was the Damascus suburb of Duma, people spilling out into the streets after Friday prayers, calling for the regime to go, then pandemonium as the bullets started flying. The protesters said it was security forces; state television said it was gunmen firing from rooftops and that policemen were among the casualties. In virtually all parts of the country, there were similar scenes on this first Friday of Ramadan. The uprising shows no sign of flagging as it approaches its fifth month.

The Sudanese government has blocked a shipment of oil from the new Republic of South Sudan, accusing the authorities there of failing to pay customs duties. Relations between the two countries have worsened since the South became independent last month. Mary Harper reports.

A spokesman for the Sudanese foreign ministry said a ship carrying 600,000 barrels of oil was being held at the northern export hub of Port Sudan. It would not be allowed to leave, he said, until South Sudan paid customs fees. This is the latest stage in the deterioration of relations between the two countries. Several issues remain unresolved, including how to divide oil revenues. Seventy-five per cent of the oil reserves are in South Sudan, but as it's landlocked, it has to export it via the north.

At least seven people have been killed by government troops in the Somali capital Mogadishu during disturbances at a camp for those displaced by the famine. The trouble started when residents of the camp tried to stop government soldiers from taking emergency UN food supplies. A BBC correspondent in Mogadishu said the soldiers made off with two truckloads of food.

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A federal jury in the United States has convicted five former police officers in connection with the shooting of six unarmed people in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Two of the civilians died. Four police officers were found guilty of civil rights violations but cleared of murder. Marcus George reports from Washington.

It was just days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans when four of the officers responded to a report of police coming under fire. Witnesses say they arrived at the scene and began shooting without any warning. In defence, one officer said he'd been paralysed by fear over reports of widespread crime following the hurricane. The jury convicted all four of civil rights violations but not of murder. They now face life in prison. Alongside another former officer, they were also found guilty of covering up their actions by falsifying reports and handing in faked evidence.

A billion-dollar mission of exploration to Jupiter has begun with the launch of an unmanned solar-powered spacecraft called Juno from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

"Three, two, one, ignition and lift-off of the Atlas V with Juno on a trek to Jupiter - a planetary piece of the puzzle on the beginning of our solar system."

The project's chief scientist said Jupiter held the secret to understanding how all the planets including Earth were formed.

A representative of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the ** Lama, has been released after being held by police in the Nepali capital Kathmandu. His supporters say he was detained for seven hours. Thinley Lama was arrested after holding a news conference. He became the head of the Tibetan Refugee Welfare Office in June. He's called on the Nepali government to safeguard the rights of Tibetan refugees in the country. About 20,000 Tibetan refugees live in Nepal.

BBC World Service News.