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Digest

Thursday, February 4, 2010; A08

SRI LANKA

Thousands protest election results

Thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets of Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo, on Wednesday to protest the results of the recent presidential election, which they say was marred by fraud.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa defeated his former army chief, Sarath Fonseka, in the Jan. 26 poll by 17 percentage points, according to official results. But the opposition says the vote was rigged and has said it will mount a court challenge.

Election protests are rare on the island nation, but the demonstration reflected the bitter nature of a presidential campaign that pitted former allies against each other.

-- Associated Press

RUSSIA

Al-Qaeda militant reportedly killed

Russia said Wednesday that its forces killed an Egyptian militant in Dagestan who had set up a faction of al-Qaeda in the volatile southern region.

"One of the founders of the al-Qaeda network in the North Caucasus . . . and a gunman accompanying him were eliminated," Vyacheslav Shanshin, head of the local branch of the federal security service, the FSB, said on state television.

The state-run RIA news agency said Makhmoud Mokhammed Shaaban, 49, had been aided by Georgia, a charge Tbilisi swiftly denied.

Factions of the FSB have repeatedly linked the Islamist insurgency raging along Russia's turbulent, Muslim-dominated southern flank to al-Qaeda and have accused neighboring Georgia of assisting the militants.

-- Reuters

SYRIA

U.S. proposes envoy, foreign minister says

Washington has submitted to Damascus the name of its proposed new ambassador to Syria, the first since 2005, the country's foreign minister said, in the latest step toward improving ties.

The announcement came as Damascus accused neighboring Israel, a U.S. ally, of pushing the region toward war and warned that future conflicts would involve Israel's cities as well as its military.

Washington withdrew its last ambassador to Damascus in 2005 after the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri, which many blamed on Syria. Syria has denied involvement.

-- Associated Press

Australia blocks shipments to Iran: Australia blocked three export shipments to Iran over concerns that the contents might be used to advance a nuclear weapons program, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said. One shipment to Iran reportedly included pumps that could be used to cool nuclear power plants. France and the United States are drafting a U.N. resolution imposing additional sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.

Zuma admits fathering child out of wedlock: South African President Jacob Zuma confirmed that last year he fathered a child with a woman who is not one of his three wives but rejected criticism that his actions undermined government efforts to combat the country's AIDS epidemic. "I said during World AIDS Day that we must all take personal responsibility for our actions," he said. "I have done so."

Group reports increase in anti-Semitic acts in France: A group founded to protect France's Jewish community says anti-Semitic acts in France soared 75 percent last year -- many coming as Israel pressed an offensive against Hamas in the Middle East in January. The Jewish Community Protection Service tallied 832 anti-Semitic acts in 2009, up from 474 a year earlier. Most involved graffiti and threatening gestures; about 17 percent involved vandalism and violence.

British encyclopedia apologizes for error: Encyclopaedia Britannica apologized for mangling the history of the Irish Civil War in a concise version of Britannica first published seven years ago. The book, recently supplied to Ireland's 4,000 schools, falsely described Ireland's 1922-23 civil war as pitting the Catholic south against the Protestant north. In fact, the civil war took place entirely south of the border.

Malaysian opposition leader in court again: A court trying Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges heard explicit details from his accuser after the Malaysian opposition leader denied that he had illicit sexual relations with a male aide. Anwar has said that the allegation -- the second of his political career -- is part of a high-level conspiracy to thwart his political movement. Sodomy is punishable in Muslim-majority Malaysia by up to 20 years in prison.

-- From news services

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