Rome conclave: New Pope chosen by cardinals

White smoke billowing from the Sistine Chapel chimney has announced to the world that cardinals gathered inside have elected a new Pope to head the Catholic Church.

Crowds in St Peter's Square cheered and bells rang out as the smoke appeared.

The name of the new Pope, the 266th, is expected to be announced shortly.

He will replace Pope Benedict XVI, who stepped down last month saying he was no longer strong enough to lead the Church.

The 115 cardinals have been in isolation since Tuesday afternoon, and held four inconclusive votes.

At least 77 of them, or two-thirds, would have had to vote for a single candidate for him to be elected Pope.

Before the conclave began, there was no clear frontrunner to replace Benedict.

Crowds with umbrellas massed in the square flying flags from around the world.

"It's so emotional. We thought we were going home and the smoke was going to be black," one Catholic told the BBC. "We're so touched. It was really incredible."

"I can't explain how happy I am right now," Filipino Ben Canete told the Associated Press.

The Catholic News Agency said people were running through the streets of Rome, hoping to reach St Peter's Square in time for the appearance of the new Pope.

A troupe of Swiss Guards in silver helmets and full regalia marched to the Basilica in preparation for the announcement.

After his name is read out, the new Pope will emerge from the loggia overlooking the square to deliver his first speech.

He will have already accepted an invitation to become Pope and the cardinals will have sworn allegiance to him, after which he will have gone to pray alone.


Lukashevich: US Unilateral Interpretation of Geneva Statement hinders ending Crisis in Syria

MOSCOW, (ST)- Spokesman of the Russian Foreign Ministry Alexander Lukashevich on Tuesday criticized US open support for the Syrian "opposition" stressing that this support indicates a unilateral interpretation of Geneva statement.

"This unilateral interpretation hardens the issue of ending clashes in Syria and attaining a comprehensive national dialogue," Lukashevich said.

"We heard inconvenient statements on Monday by spokesperson of US State Secretary Victoria Neuland concerning the interpretations of the Geneva statement, he added, stressing that Geneva statement is consensual and very clear."  

The Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman went on to say that the Russia's contacts with representatives of the Syrian government, and different internal and external Syrian "opposition" parties aimed to implement what has been agreed on in Geneva and didn't seek new interpretations.

"Russia will keep adopting this policy in future too," he stressed.

Lukashevich pointed out that the statement which was adopted in Geneva by all key foreign players including the United States has proposed the issue of turning conflict in Syria into a peaceful track by forming a "transitive ruling party" through negotiations between the government and opposition parties.


H. Mustafa

US Seeks to Sit Syrian Leadership, Opposition to Negotiation Table- Kerry

Oslo,(ST)_The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stressed that the US seeks to sit the Syrian leadership and the opposition to the negotiating table in order to form a "transitional government" within the harmonic context  reached in Geneva.
During  a news conference with his Norwegian counterpart Aspen Bart on Tuesday  quoted by  Russia Today site, Kerry added   that the Geneva statement requires mutual consent of the two  parties to form the  transitional government . " A Syrian opposition ready to cooperate should sit at the table of negotiations . We are working on this and will continue to work" . He said
Kerry pointed out that Washington will continue pressing the "Syrian opposition to ensure the unity of its ranks."

He considered  that "the formation of a transitional government in Syria does not only  require the Syrian leadership change of  its attitudes, but a greater consensus among  the opposing forces."

For his part,  the Norwegian foreign minister avoided  to respond directly to a question whether his country supports the supply of weapons to armed groups in Syria as sought by Britain.  "So far we did not support the idea of  active arming." He said
The Norwegian minister emphasized that his country's position is  "fully identical " with that of  the  US.


T. Fateh

Rome conclave: Cardinals resume papal deliberations

People look at a giant TV screen in St Peter's Square at the Vatican on Tuesday as 115 cardinals gather in the Sistine Chapel on the first day of the conclave to elect the 266th pope Rain did not deter the faithful gathered in St Peter's Square on Tuesday

Cardinals are about to start their second day of deliberations in the Vatican conclave to elect a new Pope, after reaching no decision on Tuesday,according to BBC.

The 115 cardinal-electors are shut off in the Sistine Chapel and a nearby residence until two-thirds agree on a leader for the world's 1.2bn Catholics.

Black smoke signalling an inconclusive first vote drew cheers from crowds in St Peter's Square on Tuesday evening.

There is no clear frontrunner to replace Pope Benedict XVI.

The 85-year-old stepped down last month, saying he was no longer strong enough to lead the Church, which is beset by problems ranging from a worldwide scandal over child sex abuse to allegations of corruption at the Vatican Bank.

    08:30 - Prayer followed by voting in the Sistine Chapel. Black smoke will emerge if two morning ballots are inconclusive. White smoke will appear as soon as there is a positive outcome

    Smoke could come any time between about 09:30 and 11:30

    1130 - If no Pope is elected, cardinals go back to their residence for lunch

    15:00 - Cardinals return to the Sistine Chapel for another two rounds of voting - smoke expected between 16:30 and 18:30

    If there is no result by Friday, they will hold a day of prayer and reflection on Saturday before resuming the election

The cardinals will vote four times daily until a single candidate garners enough support - at which point the smoke coming from the Sistine Chapel chimney will be white.

After celebrating Mass this morning, they are returning to the Sistine Chapel to resume voting.

They can vote twice in the morning. If those ballots are inconclusive, black smoke will once again rise from the chimney and the election will resume after lunch.

Voting takes place in silence, with no formal debate, until a decision is reached. If that does not happen after three days, there may be a pause for prayer and informal discussion for a maximum of one day.

Crowds who had braved rain and storms to watch the cardinals go into the conclave on big screens in St Peter's Square cheered as the black smoke appeared at 19:41 (18:41 GMT) on Tuesday.


Rome conclave: Cardinals to begin voting for new Pope

Cardinals have entered the Vatican's Sistine Chapel, where they will begin voting to elect a new Pope.

The 115 cardinal-electors will be locked in the chapel after swearing an oath of secrecy.

They will vote four times daily until two-thirds can agree on a candidate.

The election was prompted by the surprise abdication of Benedict XVI. There is no clear frontrunner to take over from him as head of the Roman Catholic Church.

The 85-year-old Benedict stepped down last month saying he was no longer strong enough to lead the Church, which is beset by problems ranging from a worldwide scandal over child sex abuse to allegations of corruption at the Vatican bank.

His resignation and the recent damage to the Church's reputation make the choice of the cardinal-electors especially hard to predict, the BBC's James Robbins in Rome says.

They will weigh pressure for a powerful manager to reform the Vatican against calls for a new Pope able to inspire the faithful, our correspondent adds.

On Tuesday morning's, the cardinals attended a "Mass for the Election of the Supreme Pontiff" in St Peter's Basilica. They filed in wearing bright red vestments to the sound of Gregorian chanting.

In his homily, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, praised the "brilliant pontificate" of Pope Benedict and implored God to grant another "Good Shepherd" to lead the church.

He outlined the mission Catholics believe was given by Jesus Christ to St Peter - the first Pope - emphasising love and sacrifice, evangelisation and the unity of the church.

The BBC's Michael Hirst in Rome says the speech was more measured in tone than the address given in 2005 by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he became Pope Benedict, which featured a fiery attack on the "dictatorship of relativism".

A few hundred people watched the Mass from St Peter's Square on giant screens in thunderstorms and pouring rain.

At 16:30 local time (15:30 GMT), 115 cardinal-electors - all under 80, as those over 80 are excluded - entered the Sistine Chapel for the secret conclave to select Benedict's successor, chanting the traditional Litany of the Saints.

Once they have taken an oath of secrecy, Msgr Guido Marini, papal master of ceremonies, will call out the words "Extra omnes" - "Everybody out" - and the chapel doors will be locked to outsiders.

Candidates named as contenders include Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan, Brazil's Odilo Scherer, and Cardinal Dolan himself - though he told one interviewer anyone who thought he was in with a chance might be "smoking marijuana".

The smoke that will drift out of the chapel's chimney early in the evening is likely to be black - meaning no Pope has been elected.

From Wednesday, two votes will be held each morning and afternoon - with ballots burned after each session - until one candidate attains a two-thirds majority (77 votes).

Then the smoke will be white, meaning the 266th bishop of Rome will have been chosen.


EU Should Support Dialogue in Syria: Czech FM

PRAGUE,( ST)- Czech Foreign Minister Karel  Chwertsenberg  stressed that  possibility of reaching a political solution to the crisis in Syria is still  exist, pointing out that the European Union  should  support the dialogue and provide assistance as it has the means to do so.
In statements following  the meeting  of the EU foreign ministers on Monday  in Brussels, the Czech minister  renewed his country's opposition to any outside military intervention against Syria, warning that this will  lead to more casualties in this country.
He  rejected the abolition of arms exports ban  to Syria, stressing that leaving the dispute to the last moments will lead to  more bloodshed .


T. Fateh

Lavrov, Hague to discuss the situation in Syria, the region

 MOSCOW, (ST) _ The Russian Foreign Ministry announced today  that  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov  and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu will l discuss tomorrow in London,  at the first meeting of the Russian  British strategic dialogue, the situation in Syria and the region.
Itar- Tass  quoted the  Spokesperson for  Russian Foreign Ministry Alexander Ukashević  as saying:  " Lavrov and Shoigu will discuss with their British peers  issues pertinent to European security and  the situation in Syria and the Arab world in general."
"Talks will also deal with  Afghanistan, the Iranian nuclear program and the situation in the Korean peninsula." Ukashevic  said.
The two sides are scheduled to hold separate meetings for the ministers of  foreign affairs  and defense in the framework of the 2  plus  2 forum  to discuss f Russian-British relations in various economic, commercial m cultural and  military areas.

A  joint statement will be released by Lavrov and his British counterpart William Hague in the wake of talks, on holding a mutual Culture Year in 2014 and the will sign an official document on the establishment of the British Russian strategic dialogue.

T. Fateh

New Russian Humanitarian Aid to Syria

 MOSCOW– Russia’s emergencies Ministry has sent another plane with humanitarian aid to Syria, Itar Tass news agency said on Tuesday.

Irina Rossius , the ministry's spokesperson told the agency that "at 10:05 Moscow time on Tuesday, an Ilyushin-62 airplane with humanitarian aid took off from the Ramenskoye airfield outside Moscow for Syria’s Latakia.”

The plane is carrying 11 tons of humanitarian cargoes, including blankets and food stuff.

Earlier, on February 19, the Russian emergencies ministry delivered 40 tons of humanitarian cargoes to Syria.

 H. Mustafa