World News: Putin 'knew about plan to murder Russian dissident'

Senior American officials believed Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin could have known about the plan to murder dissident former spy Alexander Litvinenko in London, the latest leaked US diplomatic cables have revealed.

Washington's senior diplomat in Europe, assistant secretary of state Daniel Fried, challenged suggestions that the killing was the work of "rogue elements" in the Russian security forces, adding that it would have been difficult for the operation to go ahead without Mr Putin's knowledge, such was his attention to detail.

The documents posted on the WikiLeaks website also describe Russia as a "virtual mafia state" in which the activities of the government and organised crime are indistinguishable.

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Mr Fried's comments were made in a conversation in Paris with Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, a senior adviser to then-French president Jacques Chirac, on December 7, 2006, two weeks after Mr Litvinenko's death in a London hospital.

Mr Gourdault-Montagne was said to have adopted a "defensive posture" over claims that the Russian government was involved.

Eminem back on centre stage

Eminem's "Recovery" was made complete as the Recording Academy nominated the resurgent rapper for ten Grammy awards, including the biggest prizes: album, song, and record of the year.

Bruno Mars was not far behind with seven nominations.

Superjumbos in engine fear

Australia's air safety authority said engines on some A380 superjumbos have a manufacturing defect that could cause engine failure.

An oil leak and fire are being blamed for the disintegration during a flight shortly after take-off from Singapore on November 4.

Service marks fallen miners

New Zealand held a national remembrance service today for 29 coal miners killed in an explosion last month, with a line of 29 black-draped tables each bearing a fallen miner's helmet, lamp and name serving as the centrepiece.

Pike River mine was rocked by an explosion on November 19, trapping the miners.

A second major blast five days later dashed hopes any of the workers had survived, and the men's bodies have still not been recovered. Two Britons were among the dead.

Witherspoon has star quality

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Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon has been saluted with a star on Hollywood Boulevard.

The Walk the Line actress unveiled her honour outside the W Hollywood Hotel. It is the 2425th star dedicated on the celebrated avenue ahead of her latest movie release, How Do You Know.

Pope gives green light to solar mobile

Vatican: Pope Benedict XVI would gladly use a solar-powered electric popemobile as another sign of his efforts to promote sustainable energy and take care of the planet.

Los Angeles: Neutron bomb inventor Samuel T. Cohen, who in 1958 designed the tactical nuclear weapon intended to kill people but do minimal damage to cities, has died at 89. Mr Cohen's son Paul Cohen said his father died of stomach cancer.