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Saturday, February 21, 2009


Latvia's Government Resigns Amid Crisis

Latvia's center-right coalition government resigned Friday after weeks of instability brought on by the country's economic collapse.

President Valdis Zatlers said he had accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis and his administration, which had been in power since December 2007. Zatlers said he would begin talks with party leaders Monday to find a new candidate for premier.

International lenders, including the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, have pledged almost $10 billion to help the Baltic country recover.

Also Friday, the government of recession-hit Estonia survived a parliamentary vote of confidence over budget cuts of $650 million. The proposed cuts include slashing public-sector salaries by 10 percent and abandoning planned increases in pensions.

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South Korea Warns Pyongyang

South Korea will retaliate if North Korea attacks its naval ships in waters near the countries' disputed maritime border, Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee told lawmakers in Seoul. The unusually strong warning came as North Korea stepped up its war rhetoric in anger over South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's tough stance toward the North.

Politkovskaya Appeal Pledged

Russian prosecutors said they will appeal the acquittal of three men in the murder of acclaimed journalist Anna Politkovskaya, and the presiding judge sent the case back to investigators. Politkovskaya, whose reports on atrocities in Chechnya and abuses by Russian authorities angered the government, was shot dead in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building in October 2006.

Madagascar Reclaims Offices

Madagascar security forces seized back ministry buildings from opposition groups that had occupied them hours before. Supporters of opposition head Andry Rajoelina said the troops' action made talks with President Marc Ravalomanana impossible. Rajoelina, who has called for Ravalomanana to relinquish power and is seeking to establish a parallel government, has waged a protest campaign that has sparked violence that killed 125 people in the past month.

U.N. 'Concerned' for Abductee

The U.N. refugee agency said it is "very concerned" about the health of an American aid worker who was kidnapped in Pakistan on Feb. 2, saying John Solecki suffers from a serious medical condition that may endanger his life. A spokesman said the United Nations is appealing to his captors to establish contact so that his release can be arranged. Solecki heads the U.N. refugee office in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta.

2 Troops Beheaded in Thailand

Suspected Muslim insurgents ambushed a military convoy and beheaded two soldiers in southern Thailand in the second such attack this month, police said. More than 20 gunmen armed with automatic rifles ambushed a group of five pairs of soldiers traveling on motorcycles after escorting teachers to school in Yala province.

Belgium Takes Senegal to Court

Belgium has taken Senegal to the International Court of Justice over the African nation's failure to prosecute Hissene Habre, a former president of Chad, on charges of crimes against humanity and torture. The former dictator has lived in a villa in Senegal's capital, Dakar, since he was ousted by rebels in 1990.

Burma to Release Prisoners

Burma's military government will free more than 6,000 prisoners "with good conduct and discipline" on Saturday, official news media said, but there was no mention of political detainees being released. Opposition spokesman U Nyan Win said he doubted many prisoners of conscience would be freed. "In the previous amnesty, at the end of last year, there were only about a dozen among over 9,000 prisoners," he said.

Vatican Decries Israeli TV Show

The Vatican complained to the Israeli government about a private Israeli TV show that ridiculed Christian traditions, calling it an "offensive act of intolerance." In the program, Israeli comedian Lior Shlein denied that Mary was a virgin and that Jesus walked on water, saying he was doing so as a "lesson" to Christians who deny the Holocaust. The Israeli Foreign Ministry said Shlein has apologized.

Bosnian Serbs Owe Muslims

The authorities of the Bosnian Serb-controlled town of Banja Luka must pay $42 million to its Islamic community for 16 local mosques destroyed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, a local magistrate ruled. The ruling comes eight years after local Muslims filed the first case in Bosnia in which a religious community sought reparation for wartime damages.

Wolves Kill Woman in Georgia

A pack of wolves killed a woman in the Kakheti region of eastern Georgia in the third attack in a month, leading authorities to hand out weapons to locals for self-defense. The woman's body was found about 24 miles from the capital, Tbilisi, after she had been missing for several days.

From News Services

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