WORLD IN BRIEF

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

BAGHRAN VALLEY, Afghanistan -- U.S. troops carrying out an anti-militant offensive fought off a Taliban attack on their camp Tuesday, while a roadside blast in the same part of southern Afghanistan left a Romanian soldier dead.

In the fiercest clash since being dropped on a mountaintop over the weekend to block Taliban supply routes, U.S. troops from the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division used machine guns and mortars to repel about 60 attackers in Helmand province's remote Baghran Valley. U.S. warplanes were called in to bomb an insurgent hideout and the U.S. military said a few of the fighters were probably killed. Local residents said an elderly couple was killed in the air raid.

In neighboring Kandahar province, a massive explosion tore apart a Romanian tank, killing one soldier and wounding three, the Romanian Defense Ministry said. A fourth soldier was wounded in a subsequent blast, it said.

Romania has about 700 peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan, and at least four have been killed since 2003.

* * *

Asia

SEOUL -- Disgraced cloning scientist Hwang Woo Suk went on trial on charges of fraud and embezzlement in a scandal over faked stem cell research that undermined global hopes of dramatic new treatments for incurable diseases.

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Chen Shui-bian denied opposition charges of corruption and incompetence on live television and called for unity as he battled the worst crisis he has faced since coming to office in 2000.

The opposition Nationalist Party and People First Party have been pushing hard to unseat Chen, arguing that he is unfit to rule. Last week they launched a recall motion in an extraordinary session of parliament.

Europe

STUTTGART, Germany -- Three Iraqi men went on trial on charges that they plotted to kill Ayad Allawi during a visit to Germany in 2004 when he was Iraq's prime minister.

Ata Abdoulaziz Rashid, 32, Mazen Ali Hussein, 24, and Rafik Mohamad Yousef, 31, face charges of conspiracy and membership in Ansar al-Islam, a radical Islamic group linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

ROME -- Italian police arrested 45 people in an anti-Mafia crackdown in Sicily, including top mobsters who allegedly had been in contact with Bernardo Provenzano, the reputed No. 1 boss caught earlier this year.

Investigators said the arrests in Palermo dealt a serious blow to the heart of the Sicilian Mafia two months after Provenzano's arrest. The investigation, which included almost two years of wiretapping in and around Palermo, gave a clear picture of the crime syndicate in the Sicilian capital, they said.

 MADRID -- A founding member of the armed Basque separatist group ETA was among 12 people arrested in France and Spain in a crackdown on the organization's extortion operations, the Interior Ministry said. All were accused of acting as intermediaries between ETA and businesses from which it exacts payments, the ministry said.

Africa

KHARTOUM, Sudan -- Sudan's president vowed to never allow U.N. peacekeepers into the western region of Darfur and said he would lead the "resistance" against any foreign force, his strongest rejection yet of the plan by the United Nations for halting violence in the region.

THE AMERICAS

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Colombia's coca crop increased by 8 percent last year despite a U.S.-backed eradication campaign that was the largest in history, U.N. drug officials said.

-- From News Services

THE AMERICAS

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Colombia's coca crop increased by 8 percent last year despite a U.S.-backed eradication campaign that was the largest in history, U.N. drug officials said.

-- From News Services


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