International news in brief

EU leaders agree new eurozone rules

Rules designed to avoid another financial crisis have been agreed at an EU leaders’ summit. Leaders agreed to give the EU power to monitor national budgets, and have resolved to create a permanent fund to help the euro through difficult periods. Officials from the EU said the eurozone came close to collapse earlier this year because it lacked a fund to help keep it afloat.

North and South Korea exchange fire

Troops in North and South Korea have exchanged fire across the border, according to South Korean officials. Reports say North Korea fired twice at a frontline unit in Hwacheon, 56 miles north-east of Seoul. South Korean soldiers returned fire three times. Officials say it is not clear if North Korea’s initial shots were deliberately intended to provoke South Korean troops on one of the worlds most heavily fortified borders.

Bad weather affects tsunami relief

Efforts to help survivors of Monday’s tsunami in Indonesia have been hampered by bad weather. More than 400 people have been confirmed dead, with heavy rain and high tides making it difficult for boats to deliver aid to survivors on the Mentawai islands, located off the west coast of Sumatra. 300 people are still missing, with bodies still to be recovered from coastal regions. Officials in charge of the disaster relief mission plan to start distributing aid by air, but reports from the area say there are not enough helicopters to reach all of the affected places.

Afghan drug labs destroyed in US-Russian operation

Agents from Russia and the US have joined together to destroy drug laboratories in Afghanistan, according to the head of Russia’s drug control agency, Viktor Ivanov.  Agents seized more than a tonne of heroin and opium in the raids which took place near the border with Pakistan on Thursday. The drugs had a street value of £157m and are believed to have been destined for Central Asia. This is the first time a joint operation of this nature has taken place between Russia and America.

New Zealand passes Hobbit law

New Zealand’s parliament has passed legislation which means production of the two Hobbit films will be kept in the country, after making a deal with Warner Bros to keep the £315m ($500m) project. A dispute between Warner Bros and acting unions had endangered the production of the film in New Zealand, with Warner Bros threatening to move the project to another location. The government agreed to change labour laws after acting unions protested about terms and conditions. The deal between Warner Bros and the NZ government also included additional tax breaks and help with marketing costs.