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Monday, September 22, 2008

VENEZUELA

Chávez Talks Up Russian Friendship

President Hugo Chávez said in an interview broadcast Sunday that Latin America needs a strong friendship with Russia to help reduce U.S. influence and keep peace in the region. The interview aired as a Russian naval squadron prepared to sail to Venezuela.

Venezuela recently hosted two Russian strategic bombers and is preparing to conduct a joint naval exercise with Russia. Russian news media said Chávez plans to visit Moscow on Friday, his second trip in just over two months.

"Not only Venezuela, but Latin America as a whole, needs friends like Russia now, as we are shedding this (U.S.) domination," Chávez told Russia's Vesti 24 television.

CHINA

Nearly 53,000 Children Sick From Dairy Products

The number of children in China sickened by dairy products tainted with the banned industrial chemical melamine has jumped to nearly 53,000, the government said Sunday as it vowed to crack down on those responsible for one of China's worst food safety scandals in years.

More than 80 percent of the 12,892 children hospitalized in recent weeks were 2 years old or younger, the Health Ministry said in a statement posted on its Web site late Sunday. Four children have died and 104 of the hospitalized children are in serious condition. Another 39,965 children received outpatient treatment at hospitals and were considered "basically recovered," the ministry said.

Over the weekend, Hong Kong reported the first known illness outside mainland China -- a 3-year-old girl who developed kidney stones after drinking Chinese dairy products. She was discharged from the hospital, the Hong Kong government said.

GEORGIA

Policeman Killed Near Abkhaz Border

A Georgian policeman was killed and two others wounded Sunday in an incident the Georgian government said appeared designed to give Russia a pretext for keeping troops in Georgia beyond next month's agreed-upon pullout date.

Ramaz Kitia, 33, a lieutenant, was fatally shot at a checkpoint in the village of Kurcha, near the border with the separatist region of Abkhazia. Two other policemen shot at the same time are expected to survive.

It was the third shooting of Georgian police at checkpoints in the past two weeks. Once again, silent sniper fire came from the Russian-manned side of the border, according to Georgia's Interior Ministry spokesman, Shota Utiashvili.


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