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Canadian soldiers on ground in Mali

OTTAWA -- Canada's special forces are on the ground in Mali to help protect Canadian personnel who are already operating in the troubled African country, say sources within the Department of National Defence.

Few other details were immediately available, although the Department of Foreign Affairs went to lengths to spell out that the presence of special forces soldiers does not signal an involvement in combat.

"We have been clear; there will be no mission in Mali," a Foreign Affairs official said in a statement.

"Steps have been taken to ensure our mission and Canadian personnel are protected. We cannot comment on security specifics."

Canadian Forces crews have been piloting and supporting Canada's C-17 heavy-lift transport as it moves military equipment in support of French troops.

Queen Beatrix stepping aside for son

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- Dutch Queen Beatrix announced Monday she will abdicate on April 30 after 33 years as head of state, clearing the way for her eldest son, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, 45, to become the nation's first king in more than a century.

The announcement, in a nationally televised speech, signalled an end to the reign of one of Europe's longest-serving monarchs, whose time on the throne was marked by tumultuous shifts in Dutch society.

The queen's abdication from the largely ceremonial role had been widely expected, but it is sure to bring an outpouring of sentimental and patriotic feelings among the Dutch, most of whom adore Beatrix. In everyday conversation, many of her subjects refer to her simply by the nickname "Bea."

"Responsibility for our country must now lie in the hands of a new generation," Beatrix said in the speech delivered from her Huis ten Bosch palace just days before she was to turn 75.

Japan eases barriers to Canadian beef

OTTAWA -- Canadian cattle producers say they're pleased Japan is relaxing restrictions on imported beef from Canada and three other countries a decade after raising barriers amid the so-called mad cow disease scare.

Japan's Foreign Ministry announced Monday it will allow imports of beef from cows up to 30 months old, effective this Friday. The previous standard was to ban imports of beef from animals older than 20 months.

"This is an exciting announcement and we've been looking forward to this for quite some time," Martin Unrau, president of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, said in a teleconference.

"This announcement is very significant for Canadian cattle producers. Japan is an extremely important market and this expanded access will breathe new life into the Canadian beef sector."

Flooding displaces thousands of Aussies

BRISBANE, Australia -- Thousands of Australians huddled in shelters today as torrential rains flooded cities and towns in the northeast, killing four people and prompting around 1,000 helicopter evacuations.

With floodwaters expected to peak in most of the worst-hit areas later today, officials were rushing to move those in the highest-risk areas to safety.

In the hard-hit city of Bundaberg, 385 kilometres north of Brisbane, rescue crews plucked 1,000 people to safety after the river that runs through town broke its banks, sending fast-moving, muddy water pouring into streets and homes. Around 1,500 residents fled to evacuation centres, while patients at the local hospital were being airlifted to Brisbane as a precaution.

-- from the news services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 29, 2013 A8

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