Around the World

Monday, September 22, 2008


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.


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.


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.

"A possibility can be that there are some people who want to continue the pretext of the military presence in Georgia, so if it escalates they have an excuse," Utiashvili said.

-- Tara Bahrampour


Soldier Accused In Detainee's Killing

Military prosecutors accused a U.S. soldier Sunday of taking an Iraqi detainee to a remote desert location north of Baghdad on May 16, stripping him naked, shooting him in the head and chest and then watching as another soldier set fire to the body with an incendiary grenade.

The allegations were made at the opening hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence against 1st Lt. Michael C. Behenna for a court-martial. He has been charged with premeditated murder of his prisoner, Ali Mansour Mohammed. Prosecutors also accuse Behenna of trying to cover up the killing.

The key testimony at the hearing came from the only witness, an Iraqi interpreter.

U.S. Targets Al-Qaeda; Suicide Bombers Kill 5

U.S.-led forces arrested 25 people during operations against al-Qaeda in Iraq this weekend, the American military said Sunday. And suicide bombers struck police targets in northern Iraq, killing at least five people and injuring dozens in the latest sign that extremists, though weakened, are still capable of devastating attacks.

The U.S. military said those detained included alleged members of car bomb cells and financial networks. Most of the suspects were detained in Baghdad and the northern cities of Mosul and Kirkuk.

Separately, U.S. troops acting on tips captured five suspected Iranian-backed Shiite militiamen Sunday during operations in Baghdad.

Iraq, Royal Dutch Shell To Sign Gas Accord

Iraq's Oil Ministry said it will sign a gas deal with Royal Dutch Shell in Baghdad on Monday. A ministry spokesman also said that the joint venture involving Shell and state-run South Oil Co. would be established immediately to invest in natural gas development in the southern province of Basra. Iraq will control 51 percent of the venture and Shell the remaining 49 percent.


Militant Group in Delta Declares Cease-Fire

Nigeria's main militant group declared a unilateral cease-fire in the southern oil region Sunday, ending the worst spate of attacks in years to hit Africa's oil giant.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said it was ceasing hostilities immediately after appeals from elders and politicians in the region. Three years of attacks have cut Nigeria's oil production from 2 1/2 million barrels a day to 1 1/2 million barrels.

The group said it would launch more reprisal attacks in the event of another military raid on one of its base camps. A military operation Sept. 14 had prompted the latest surge in violence.

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Car Bomb Injures 10 in Spain

A car bomb exploded outside a police station in Ondarroa, in Spain's northern Basque region, injuring 10 people and causing major damage hours after another explosion in the regional capital, Vitoria. Police blamed the armed separatist group ETA, which has been fighting since 1968 for an independent Basque state in northern Spain and western France. The bombings occurred three days after a Spanish court banned a pro-independence Basque political party for having ETA links.

Near-Peace Day in Afghanistan

The United Nations said guns fell silent across much of Afghanistan on Sunday for International Peace Day, for which the United States, NATO, the Afghan government and the Taliban pledged to halt attacks. Violence still marred the day, however: A Taliban attack killed two guards in one province, while in another, a battle that had begun Saturday continued.

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