Top of the Morning: Syrian Chemical Bombs “Locked and Loaded”; Weak UK Economy Means Smaller Aid Budget; Clashes in Egypt

Top stories from the global news aggregation service and mobile app, DAWNS Digest.

Report: Syrian Chemical Bombs “Locked and Loaded”

Truly frightening. It looks like we may be approaching the end-game in Syria. “The Syrian military is prepared to use chemical weapons against its own people and is awaiting final orders from President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials told NBC News on Wednesday. The military has loaded the precursor chemicals for sarin, a deadly nerve gas, into aerial bombs that could be dropped onto the Syrian people from dozens of fighter-bombers, the officials said.  As recently as Tuesday, officials had said there was as yet no evidence that the process of mixing the “precursor” chemicals had begun. But Wednesday, they said their worst fears had been confirmed: The nerve agents were locked and loaded inside the bombs.” (NBC )

Weak UK Economy Means Smaller Aid Budget

You can expect less money flowing from DfID this year. “The Department for International Development (DfID) will have to “reprioritise” its aid programmes as its budget takes a hit, after George Osborne, the UK chancellor, said economic growth will be weaker than expected. In his autumn statement, Osborne said the Office for Budget Responsibility was now predicting a contraction of 0.1% this year, down from the growth  In his statement, Osborne reaffirmed that the UK will spend 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) on development by 2013. But as growth will be weaker than forecast, the 0.7% will mean less money for DfID.” (Guardian

Biggest Clashes in Egypt Since the Revolution; Protesters Ordered to Vacate

Egypt is in deep turmoil. “Egypt’s Republican Guard ordered rival demonstrators to leave the area around the presidential palace in Cairo on Thursday after fierce overnight clashes that killed seven people.Islamist supporters of President Mohamed Mursi withdrew, but the opposition promised more protests there. The presidency announced that the Republican Guard, whose duties include protecting the palace, had set a 3 p.m. (1300 GMT) deadline for supporters and opponents of Mursi to quit an area they had turned into a battleground. (Reuters