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  #11  
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February 24, 2008


IRAQ

Missiles hit Green Zone

BAGHDAD — Extremists fired an explosive barrage yesterday into the capital's heavily protected Green Zone, targeting the heart of America's diplomatic and military mission in Iraq.

The U.S. military said there were no injuries from the early morning volley. The earth-jarring detonations, nearly 10 of them, even shook buildings across the Tigris River from the capital's fortified core, which houses the U.S. Embassy, military facilities and the Iraqi government.

The strikes were the most recent involving what a U.S. military spokesman described as indirect fire — the military's term for a rocket or mortar attack.

KOSOVO

Serbs blame U.S. for violence

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA — Serbia's hard-line leaders yesterday called the U.S. "the main culprit" in the violence that has broken out since Kosovo declared independence.

Several thousand Serbs chanting "Kosovo is Serbia" and "Russia, Vladimir Putin" protested peacefully in the ethnically divided town of Kosovska Mitrovica, the sixth day of demonstrations against Kosovo's break with Serbia.

On Thursday night, protesters in the Serbian capital Belgrade set fire to the U.S. Embassy, angered by Washington's recognition of Kosovo.

"The United States is the main culprit ... for all those violent acts," Serbia's Minister for Kosovo Slobodan Samardzic said. An aide to hard-line Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said any future violence also will be blamed on the U.S.

SAUDI ARABIA

57 men arrested for flirting

RIYADH — Saudi Arabia began yesterday to interrogate 57 men who were arrested after they were accused of flirting with women in front of a shopping mall in the holy city of Mecca, a local newspaper reported.

The country's religious police arrested the men Thursday night, claiming behavior that included dancing to pop music blaring from their cars and wearing improper clothing, according to the Okaz newspaper.

The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice runs the religious police, who are charged with enforcing Saudi Arabia's strict Islamic lifestyle.

MOROCCO

Man jailed for faking prince on Facebook

PARIS — A 26-year-old engineer has been sentenced to three years in prison for creating a fake profile of the younger brother of Moroccan King Mohammed VI on the popular Internet networking site Facebook.

A court in Casablanca on Friday convicted Fouad Mourtada of "usurping the identity of HRH Prince Moulay Rachid" and faking computer documents, the official MAP news agency reported. He was also fined $1,300.

The case has spurred an online campaign of his supporters, who have appealed in writing to the prince for clemency.

WEST BANK

Hamas preacher's death fuels tension

RAMALLAH — The family of a Hamas preacher who died in Palestinian custody claimed yesterday that the prisoner was tortured by interrogators from the rival Fatah faction.

Authorities confirmed the death Friday of Majed Barghouti, 44, at an intelligence lockup in the West Bank town of Ramallah, a week after his arrest. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah forces control the prison, ordered an investigation.

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  #12  
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February 25, 2008

IRAQ


Suicide bomb kills 40 on pilgrimage

HILLA — A suicide bomber detonated a vest packed with metal ball bearings in a tent full of pilgrims heading to a Shi'ite festival yesterday, killing at least 40 persons and wounding 60, police said.

Women and children were among the victims of the attack in the town of Iskandariyah, 25 miles south of Baghdad, police said. It was one of the deadliest attacks in Iraq this year.

Most of the victims were hit by the ball bearings, said a doctor at a hospital in Hilla, where many were taken.

IRAN

New centrifuges said to speed work

TEHRAN — The government said yesterday that it has started using new centrifuges that can churn out enriched uranium at more than double the rate of the machines that Iran has been using.

It was the first official confirmation by Tehran after diplomats with the United Nations' nuclear watchdog reported this month that Iran was using 10 new IR-2 centrifuges.

"We are [now] running a new generation of centrifuges," the Islamic Republic News Agency quoted the deputy of Iran's Supreme National Security Council as saying.

SERBIA

U.S. ambassador expresses outrage

BELGRADE — The U.S. ambassador to Serbia expressed outrage yesterday at rioters who set fire to the American Embassy in Belgrade and demanded that Serbian leaders prevent any more violence against diplomatic missions.

Ambassador Cameron Munter also criticized Serbian political leaders who have defended the riots as a "legitimate" form of protest over Kosovo's independence declaration.

"That kind of incendiary language ... is leading further to the diplomatic isolation of Serbia, which is in nobody's interest," Mr. Munter told the Associated Press.

CHINA

Court sentences 17 for deadly mine blast

BEIJING — A Chinese court has sentenced three persons to life in prison and handed jail terms to 14 others for their roles in a coal mine explosion that killed 105 miners late last year, Xinhua news agency reported today.

Those sentenced to life included the manager in charge of production at the Xinyao Coal Mine and an investor in the mine in the northern province of Shanxi, where a gas blast tore through the shaft on Dec. 5.

At the time of the explosion, 128 miners were working, far more than the maximum 60 allowed.

PAKISTAN

YouTube blocked due to cartoons

ISLAMABAD — The government ordered local Internet service providers to block access to the YouTube Web site because of cartoons of the prophet Mohammad, an industry official said yesterday.

The cartoons, published in Danish newspapers in 2005 and again earlier this month, angered Muslims because of their depiction of the prophet Mohammad.

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  #13  
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February 26, 2008

IRAQ


Cleric: Muslims mustobey West's laws

MONTREAL — Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has sent a message to Muslims in Western nations, urging them to obey the laws of the countries in which they live.

The fatwa was delivered at a Montreal press conference of prominent Shi'ite Muslims on behalf of the ayatollah, the Washington-based Center for Islamic Pluralism reported yesterday.

"Muslims have undertaken to obey the laws of the country of their residence and thus they must be faithful to that undertaking," the fatwa said.

It condemned all acts of violence and encouraged imams to keep a watchful eye on what's going on inside their mosques.

NORTH KOREA

U.S. orchestra arrives for concert

PYONGYANG — The New York Philharmonic yesterday became the most prominent U.S. cultural institution to visit isolated, nuclear-armed North Korea, and orchestra members said they hoped their musical diplomacy could bring the two nations closer together.

North Korea made unprecedented accommodations for the orchestra, allowing a delegation of nearly 300 people, including musicians, staff and journalists, to fly into Pyongyang on a chartered plane for the 48-hour visit.

The philharmonic's concert Tuesday will be broadcast live on North Korea's state-run TV and radio, unheard of in a country where events are carefully choreographed to bolster the personality cult of leader Kim Jong-il.

IRAN

Talks begin on sanctions

Representatives from six major powers began talks in Washington yesterday to consider new sanctions aimed at convincing Iran to halt sensitive uranium-enrichment work, a State Department spokesman said.

In Vienna, Austria, the U.N. nuclear monitoring agency presented documents yesterday that diplomats said indicate Iran may have focused on a nuclear-weapons program after 2003 — the year that a U.S. intelligence report says such work stopped.

BRITAIN

Skull unearthed at former orphanage

LONDON — Police used dogs to search for more bodies yesterday at a former children's home on the British island of Jersey after a child's skull was found under a concrete slab there.

The skull was found Saturday by a police dog in an investigation of the property, which was a home for orphaned and abandoned children until 1986. Forensic experts have determined the remains are at least 20 years old.

CYPRUS

Turks optimistic about reunification

NICOSIA — The decades-long division of Cyprus could be resolved by the end of the year, the leader of the breakaway Turkish Cypriots said yesterday.

The remarks were made a day after Greek Cypriots elected Dimitris Christofias as president after he campaigned on a pledge to quickly restart long-stalled talks to reunify the island.

Cyprus has been divided into a breakaway Turkish-Cypriot north and a Greek-Cypriot south since 1974, when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup attempting to unite the island with Greece.

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  #14  
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February 27, 2008

BRITAIN


Pre-Iraq war details ordered released

LONDON — Britain's information watchdog ordered the government yesterday to release the minutes of Cabinet meetings held in March 2003, at which the legal justification for going to war in Iraq was discussed.

Release of the documents could embarrass Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose predecessor Tony Blair was accused by critics of glossing over lawyers' initial reservations about launching the invasion of Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Mr. Blair was President Bush's strongest ally in the war, which started on March 20, 2003.

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas ruled on a request from a member of the public for the government to release confidential records of two Cabinet meetings held between March 7, 2003, and March 17, 2003, just days before the conflict began.

CUBA

Raul Castro meets No. 2 Vatican aide

HAVANA — Cuban President Raul Castro met with the Vatican's No. 2 official yesterday in his first talks with a foreign visitor as Cuba's new leader.

Two days after succeeding his brother, Fidel Castro, the new president met with Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who has criticized U.S. sanctions against Cuba during a six-day visit and said the Catholic Church will work with the Cuban government for the good of Cubans.

The 76-year-old general donned a dark business suit instead of his brown uniform to receive the cardinal in the government headquarters overlooking Havana's Revolution Square.

AUSTRALIA

New leaders reassess defense projects

CANBERRA — Australia has up to $23 billion worth of risky defense projects under way and will rethink several costly purchases, including U.S. fighter planes, Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said today.

"This is a list of projects that are under real risk, real risk in terms of capability and real risk for the Australian taxpayer," the minister told reporters, brandishing a confidential list of troubled military buys.

The center-left Labor government, which won power in November, may dump several projects, including the $6.5 billion purchase by the former conservative government of 24 Super Hornet fighter planes from Boeing.

NIGERIA

Court upholds president's election

ABUJA — A Nigerian election tribunal upheld the president's declared victory in last year's disputed election, according to a ruling announced yesterday.

A five-judge panel ruled that the election was not significantly undermined by irregularities claimed by the opposition.

International observers called the April 27 vote that brought President Umaru Yar'Adua to power deeply flawed, but analysts long predicted that a court victory for the opposition was unlikely.

GERMANY

Treasure hunters dig for Nazi plunder

DEUTSCHKATHARINENBERG — German treasure hunters began digging yesterday for what they say may be plunder buried by the Nazis in a man-made cavern near the Czech border.

The area's mayor, Hans-Peter Haustein, and a man who thinks he found the coordinates for the buried booty in a notebook among his deceased father's belongings, maintain that a scan of the spot has revealed that a large quantity of metal is about 20 yards below the surface. Mr. Haustein said last week they could have found the storied Amber Room treasure.

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  #15  
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February 28, 2008

KENYA


Opposition calls off mass protests

NAIROBI — President Mwai Kibaki yesterday offered his first public commitment to creating the prime minister's post his rivals have been demanding, and Kenya's opposition called off mass protests.

Both sides have been under mounting pressure to share power to end a dispute over who won the Dec. 27 presidential election. The crisis has left more than 1,000 people dead and eviscerated the East African country's economy.

Kofi Annan, the former U.N. chief mediating the crisis, suspended monthlong talks between the two political parties on Tuesday, saying he would personally appeal to their leaders to strike a deal.

GAZA STRIP

Rocket kills Israeli after air strike

GAZA CITY — A rocket launched from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip killed a man in Israel yesterday, the first such death in nine months, and Israeli air strikes killed six Palestinian militants and five civilians in the territory.

The rocket, one of 40 Hamas said it fired in response to an air strike, seemed certain to increase public pressure on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to order tougher Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip that might include a wide-scale ground operation.

Israel's air force also bombed the Hamas-run Interior Ministry, witnesses said. The blast damaged nearby buildings, killing a 6-month-old baby and wounding at least 14 persons, hospital officials said.

COLOMBIA

FARC rebels free four hostages

SAN JOSE DEL GUAVIARE — Marxist rebels freed four Colombian lawmakers held hostage for years in the jungle yesterday, in a victory for President Hugo Chavez of neighboring Venezuela who brokered the deal.

Venezuelan helicopters painted with Red Cross logos swooped into the dense jungle to pick up the three men and a woman, all abducted by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, more than six years ago.

A column of about 60 rebels handed over Gloria Polanco, Luis Eladio Perez, Orlando Beltran and Jorge Gechem, who is thought to be suffering from severe heart problems.

THAILAND

Thaksin heads home after ouster, exile

HONG KONG — Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in 2006 amid corruption accusations, headed home from exile yesterday to face charges and vowed to stay out of politics forever.

Thousands awaited his arrival at Bangkok's international airport. He said he was worried about his safety but expressed faith in Thailand's justice system.

"I believe in the Thai justice system, especially the court system," Mr. Thaksin, 58, said at Hong Kong's airport, surrounded by about 40 supporters.

BRITAIN

Police foiled plot to kill Saudi king

BRIGHTON — British police thwarted a suspected plot to kill the king of Saudi Arabia during a state visit to Britain last year, a senior officer said yesterday.

Officers caught a courier at London's Heathrow Airport attempting to smuggle $330,000 in cash into Britain to pay a cell of dissident Saudi Arabians, said Detective Superintendent Mark Holmes, head of the National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit.

King Abdullah's visit in late October and early November was the first trip by a Saudi monarch to see Queen Elizabeth II in 20 years.

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March 1, 2008

PAKISTAN

Suicide bombing kills 35 at funeral

PESHAWAR — A suicide attacker blew himself up at a funeral yesterday for a slain policeman in Pakistan's volatile Swat Valley, killing at least 35 persons, including the officer's 16-year-old son.

It was the deadliest attack in the country since the Feb. 18 parliamentary elections. And it was the bloodiest in the Swat Valley since militant followers of a pro-Taliban cleric grabbed control of large parts of the scenic corner of Pakistan's restive northwest.

President Pervez Musharraf sent in thousands of troops in November to reassert government control over the valley. The army says it has retaken most of Swat, but attacks persist and the leader of the uprising, Mullah Fazlullah, remains at large.

Javed Iqbal, the deputy police chief of the Lakki Marwat district, and his driver were killed in a roadside bomb yesterday morning. The explosion occurred just as the pallbearers lifted the coffin to carry it toward the grave. One of the pallbearers was Mr. Iqbal's 16-year-old son Ghazan, who was killed.

IRAQ

Chaldean archbishop kidnapped in Mosul

MOSUL — Gunmen kidnapped the Chaldean Catholic archbishop as he left a church in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul yesterday and killed his driver and two guards, police said.

In Rome, Pope Benedict XVI deplored the kidnapping of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho and urged the gunmen to free the prelate. A former archbishop of Mosul, Basile Georges Casmoussa, was kidnapped at gunpoint in 2005 but was released after one day.

Meanwhile, Iraqi officials said Ali Hassan al-Majid, or "Chemical Ali," Saddam Hussein's cousin and once one of the most feared men in Iraq, will be hanged within days after the presidency council has given the go-ahead.

CHINA

Access allowed to MIAs record

SHANGHAI — A window has opened for families of the 8,100 American servicemen missing since the Korean War, with China agreeing yesterday to allow access to sensitive military records — but only to Chinese researchers at first.

In another sign of warming U.S.-China military relations, the two countries also agreed to set up a military hot line for communicating in emergencies, a step long sought by the U.S. to build trust and transparency in their relations.

The agreement came at the end of annual defense talks between the two nations in Shanghai.

JAPAN

Rape case dropped against Marine

TOKYO — A U.S. Marine who was accused of raping a 14-year-old girl in southern Japan has been released after prosecutors dropped the charges at the teenager's request, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

Staff Sgt. Tyrone Luther Hadnott, 38, was arrested on Feb. 10 on suspicion of raping the girl on the southern island of Okinawa, fueling nationwide furor over crimes involving U.S. troops in Japan.

Japanese police earlier said Sgt. Hadnott admitted that he forced the girl down and kissed her but that he denied raping her.

SERBIA

80 charged in embassy attacks

BELGRADE — Police yesterday filed criminal charges against 80 persons in connection with attacks on the U.S. and other embassies last week.

Nationalist demonstrators angry about Washington's recognition of an independent Kosovo broke into the U.S. compound last week and set an empty office on fire. One protester died. Rioters also targeted the embassies of Croatia, Slovenia, Turkey, Belgium, Germany and Bosnia.

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March 2, 2008

SOUTH KOREA

U.S. kicks off joint exercises

SEOUL — Tens of thousands of U.S. and South Korean troops today kicked off a massive drill that the North has condemned as provocative and aggressive, officials said.

The U.S. aircraft carrier Nimitz has been deployed off the Korean Peninsula, and about 27,000 American troops will take part in the weeklong "Key Resolve" exercise, a spokesman for the U.S. military in South Korea said.

A Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman said "a significant portion" of South Korea's 680,000 troops were participating in the exercise, due to last until Friday, though Seoul disclosed no exact figures.

North Korea reacted angrily, with Pyongyang's Cabinet-published newspaper Minju Joson yesterday denouncing the exercise as preparing "a war of aggression" against the communist state.

ARMENIA

Emergency declared after violent protests

YEREVAN — Armenia's opposition ended a standoff with riot police in the capital, Yerevan, today after the government declared a state of emergency and mobilized the army in response to the worst unrest in a decade.

Earlier, police fought pitched battles with opposition supporters who had held daily protests since a Feb. 19 election that the opposition said was rigged in favor of Prime Minister Serzh Sarksyan to become president. At least one person was killed.

About 2,000 protesters stayed on in a square in the center of Yerevan armed with metal rods and Molotov cocktails as army trucks headed toward the capital of the former Soviet republic.

IRAQ

Insurgent training female bombers held

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military yesterday announced the capture of an insurgent leader who was recruiting and training women, including his wife, to wrap themselves in explosives and blow themselves up. The man was arrested Thursday in an operation near the town of Kan Bani Sad, north of Baghdad in Diyala province — still an al Qaeda hotbed.

An Iranian-trained sniper instructor also was arrested along with three other men, the military said on the eve of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Iraq today.

The U.S. military said it had killed six insurgents and detained 13 suspects Friday and yesterday during operations against al Qaeda in Iraq in central and northern Iraq. In the south, a British airman was killed late Friday in a rocket attack on a base near Basra.

SINGAPORE

Interpol issues alert for terrorist leader

SINGAPORE — Interpol has issued an international red alert for a purported Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) militant leader who escaped from a detention center in Singapore, the global police body's Web site said today.

Authorities were combing Singapore for Mas Selamat bin Kastari, the purported JI leader in the city-state, who escaped Wednesday after he was allowed to use the toilet during a visit from his relatives.

Kastari was accused of plotting to hijack an airplane in order to crash it into Singapore's Changi Airport in 2001, but he was never charged in court. He was being held under an internal-security law that allows for detention without trial.

ZIMBABWE

Top party official backs Mugabe rival

BULAWAYO — A senior official in Zimbabwe's ruling party said yesterday he will support one of the main challengers to President Robert Mugabe in the March 29 election in a major political blow to the longtime leader.

Dumiso Dabengwa, a Politburo member in Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, threw his weight behind former Finance Minister Simba Makoni during the kickoff of Mr. Makoni's presidential campaign.

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March 3, 2008

IRAQ


U.S. missile kills al Qaeda leader

BAGHDAD — A U.S. military helicopter fired a guided missile to kill a wanted al Qaeda in Iraq leader from Saudi Arabia who was responsible for the bombing deaths of five American soldiers, a spokesman said yesterday.

U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Gregory Smith said Jar Allah, also known as Abu Yasir al-Saudi, and another Saudi known only as Hamdan, were both killed Wednesday in Mosul.

According to the military, al-Saudi conducted numerous attacks against Iraqi and U.S. forces, including a Jan. 28 bombing that killed the five U.S. soldiers.

In that attack, insurgents blasted a U.S. patrol with a roadside bomb and showered survivors with gunfire from a mosque. The soldiers died in the explosion — the deadliest American forces since six soldiers were killed Jan. 9 in a booby-trapped house north of Baghdad.

SOMALIA

Government closes critical radio stations

MOGADISHU — Government troops raided independent radio stations in the capital yesterday, seizing equipment, forcing the stations off the air and arresting one journalist.

On Saturday, at least 14 persons died and 30 were wounded in fighting that pitted soldiers and their Ethiopian allies against insurgent suspects.

An anchor and producer at Radio Horn Afrik, Mohamed Abukar, said troops broke down their doors and ordered the station off the air. The other shuttered station was Simba.

ALGERIA

Delegation IDs Gitmo prisoners

ALGIERS — A high-level Algerian delegation has visited the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and confirmed the identities of 17 Algerians imprisoned there, the justice minister said yesterday.

It was the first time a clear figure for the number of Algerians held at Guantanamo has been made public.

Justice Minister Tayeb Belaiz did not say when the delegation visited Guantanamo but indicated the purpose of the trip was to confirm the nationalities of prisoners thought to be Algerians.

Days earlier, Assistant Secretary of State David Welch said during a visit to Algeria that Washington wants an accord with Algeria on repatriating its citizens released from Guantanamo.

AFGHANISTAN

Hundreds protest cartoon, film

KABUL — Hundreds of demonstrators set the Danish and Dutch flags ablaze yesterday in northern Afghanistan to protest the reprint of prophet Muhammad cartoons in Denmark and an upcoming Dutch film criticizing the Koran.

Clerics and madrassa students gathered in front of Afghanistan's largest shrine in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif to demand that the government shut down the Danish and Dutch embassies in Kabul.

"We don't want our government to have any diplomatic relations with these two countries," said Maulawi Abdul Hadi, one of the clerics organizing the protest. "We don't want Danish and Dutch troops in Afghanistan. They should be kicked out of the NATO forces here."

EAST TIMOR

Assassin suspect surrenders to police

DILI — An ex-policeman suspected of having shot and wounded East Timor's president last month was in custody yesterday after surrendering to police, military officials said.

Amaro da Costa surrendered without a fight late yesterday, handing over two automatic weapons and some ammunition, Lt. Col. Filomeno Paixao said.

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March 4, 2008

NETHERLANDS


Talks begin to air anti-Muslim film

THE HAGUE — A Dutch Cabinet minister postponed his trip to Somalia yesterday because of to "specific threats" linked to an anti-Muslim film by politician Geert Wilders.

The Dutch government has urged Mr. Wilders to scrap his film for the safety of its citizens abroad.

But Mr. Wilders said yesterday he has begun negotiations with Dutch broadcasters about airing the 15-minute film, "Fitna," which portrays the Koran as a "fascist" text that incites violence and preaches the oppression of women and homosexuals.

BRITAIN

Diana boyfriend didn't want marriage

LONDON — Princess Diana's heart-surgeon lover, Hasnat Khan, told the inquest into her death yesterday that he feared that marriage to one of the world's most famous women "would be hell because of who she was."

"I knew I would not be able to lead a normal life," Dr. Khan said in a highly personal statement to the inquest into the deaths of Diana and Dodi al-Fayed in a high-speed Paris car crash in August 1997.

Dr. Khan revealed that Diana decided to end their two-year relationship, during which they were hounded by the press and he was sent hate mail.

FRANCE

Sarkozy rating drops in poll

PARIS — Confidence in French President Nicolas Sarkozy is at its lowest since his May 2007 election, with voters dissatisfied with his style and the effectiveness of some of his key economic policies, a poll showed.

A week before the first round of municipal elections, the LH2 poll for Liberation newspaper released Sunday showed 37 percent expressed confidence in Mr. Sarkozy.

That compares with 41 percent in a survey a month ago and represents a steep decline from a high of 67 percent in July 2007. Mr. Sarkozy's ratings have slumped by 17 points since the start of the year.

MEXICO

Police, traffickers battle near border

TIJUANA — Mexican police and soldiers traded gunfire with drug gang suspects yesterday in a five-hour battle near the U.S. border that left a police officer and one of the suspects dead.

The shootout began at a house in a residential neighborhood of Tijuana, a drug smuggling hot spot across the border from San Diego. It started Sunday night and continued until early yesterday, police said.

President Felipe Calderon has sent thousands of troops and federal police to Tijuana and other cities in Baja California, Mexico's most violent state, to fight warring drug cartels and remove corrupt local police.

ITALY

Mystic priest's body exhumed, venerated

ROME — The remains of Padre Pio, a hugely popular Italian saint whose body is expected to go on public display later this year, have been exhumed, officials said yesterday.

Bishop Domenico D'Ambrosio, a Vatican-appointed envoy who oversaw the unearthing Sunday night, said the body was well-preserved.

Padre Pio, a mystic Capuchin monk who had an enormous following in Italy and abroad, died in 1968 after living for decades with inexplicable bleeding wounds on his hands and feet, like the wounds Jesus suffered at crucifixion. Pope John Paul II made him a saint in 2002.

Church officials wanted to exhume the body so the faithful can pray before it this year, the 40th anniversary of his death. They also wanted to take measures to ensure that it is well preserved.

EGYPT

Muslim brothers rounded up

CAIRO — Security forces detained dozens of members of Egypt's opposition Muslim Brotherhood in dawn sweeps yesterday, targeting men who are likely candidates in local council elections expected next month, the Brotherhood said.

The Islamist group said 68 persons were detained in raids on homes across Egypt, from the southern province of Qena to northern towns in the Nile Delta, where the Brotherhood has a strong popular base.

Egyptian security sources put the total number of Brotherhood arrests at 66 and said the men were accused of belonging to a banned group, possessing anti-government literature and organizing unauthorized meetings.

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World Scene


March 5, 2008

NORTHERN IRELAND


Paisley to quit as first minister

DUBLIN — Ian Paisley, the Protestant evangelist who leads Northern Ireland's power-sharing administration, says he is quitting as the leader of his Democratic Unionist Party.

The 81-year-old says he made the decision to leave after mounting pressure from within his party in recent weeks.

Mr. Paisley will step down in May as Northern Ireland's first minister, but he will remain a member of the British Parliament and a Northern Ireland Assembly member.

IRAQ

Chopper crash kills eight

BAGHDAD — An Iraqi military helicopter crashed in northern Iraq, killing a U.S. soldier who was on board and seven others, the U.S. military said yesterday.

The M-17 helicopter was reported missing Monday, the military said in a statement. The Iraqi Defense Ministry said the Russian-made aircraft got caught in bad weather and was found yesterday south of Beiji, about 90 miles south of Mosul.

All eight persons on board the helicopter died in the crash, the U.S. military said. One was a U.S. soldier, military spokesman Lt. Michael Street said.

KOSOVO

Donors to meet for new nation

The United States will attend an international donors conference in June to provide development and economic aid to the new nation of Kosovo, Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried said yesterday at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

The Bush administration, which strongly backed Kosovo's break from Serbia last month, estimates the new country will need about $2 billion over the next three years to boost its economy and establish state institutions, Mr. Fried told reporters after the hearing. About two dozen countries have now recognized Kosovo, despite fierce diplomatic pressure from Serbia.

European Union countries are expected to provide half of the aid total, with the United States, the World Bank and other international financial institutions providing the rest.

PAKISTAN

Suicide bombers hit naval college

LAHORE — Two suicide bombers blew themselves up at a naval college yesterday, killing four persons and wounding 14 in the eastern city of Lahore, officials said.

Television footage showed black smoke billowing from inside the college compound and several injured people with bloodstained clothes walking out. Two wrecked cars and a half-dozen damaged buses were visible behind the mangled metal gates.

BRITAIN

Arabic TV channel planned by BBC

LONDON — The British Broadcasting Corp. will launch an Arabic-language television news channel next week in a bid to challenge Al Jazeera and other popular Middle East TV news outlets.

The move into television news for viewers in North Africa, the Middle East and the Persian Gulf is part of a major restructuring for the British broadcaster, which closed some radio stations in Eastern Europe to divert resources to the Arabic-speaking world.

The channel will begin telecasts Tuesday with 12 hours per day of programming and will move to 24 hours of broadcasting within months. It will be provided free to viewers with access to satellite or cable news systems.

KENYA

Rival leaders meet after riots

NAIROBI — Kenya's political leaders held their first meeting yesterday since agreeing to share power last week, talking for two hours about how to move the country past postelection violence that has killed more than 1,000 people.

President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga both claim to have won Dec. 27 presidential elections. Their dispute unleashed weeks of bloodshed, exposing divisions over land and economic inequality.

It was the first meeting between Mr. Kibaki and Mr. Odinga since they struck a political deal last week to share power, with Mr. Odinga serving as prime minister.

Yesterday, dozens of people in a western Kenya village fled their homes a day after 13 persons were burned alive or hacked to death.

THAILAND

Monks investigated for flirting on Web

BANGKOK — The Thai government said yesterday it was investigating claims that supposedly celibate Buddhist monks have been using a U.S.-based social networking Web site to flirt with women.

The controversy arose after a self-styled watchdog group — the Network of Civilians to Protect the Nation, the Religion and the King — said monks were using the social networking site Hi5 to flirt with women.

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