U.S. Shuts Consulates,

Embassy in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- The American Embassy in the Saudi capital and consulates in two other cities will close Monday and Tuesday because of a threat against U.S. government buildings, the embassy said Sunday.

In the second such warning in two weeks, the embassy said in a statement that diplomatic personnel would limit nonofficial travel during the next two days and urged Americans to keep "a high level of vigilance." The statement did not elaborate on the nature of the threat.

"American citizens are . . . advised to exercise caution and maintain good situational awareness when visiting commercial establishments frequented by Westerners or in primarily Western environments," the statement said.

Hours after the announcement, a Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Mansour Turki, said his government had no information about a possible threat.


* CARACAS, Venezuela -- Voters across Venezuela cast ballots to select thousands of local officials in elections that could predict how well President Hugo Chavez's political allies will fare in key congressional elections in December.

Chavez said the elections marked "one more step in the strengthening of the electoral system" to prevent irregularities. Casting his ballot in a poor neighborhood of Caracas, he said, "There is security, there is calm throughout the country."

The elections were to decide thousands of city council and parish board posts, plus two provincial mayors and one governor, in the sparsely populated state of Amazonas.

Small opposition parties urged a boycott, while the major opposition parties called for participation to demonstrate unity.

Recent polls suggest Chavez's approval ratings are at about 70 percent, but it was unclear whether that would translate into a resounding victory for pro-Chavez politicians. Chavez allies now control 53 percent of National Assembly seats.

* CARACAS, Venezuela -- President Hugo Chavez accused the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration of using its agents for espionage and said Venezuela was suspending cooperation with the agency.

Chavez maintains that the DEA has been using the fight against drugs as a pretext to gather intelligence on Venezuela. Prosecutors last month opened an investigation into the DEA in Venezuela.


* KHARTOUM, Sudan -- The United States is sending experts to help investigate the helicopter crash that killed Sudan's first vice president and former rebel leader John Garang, U.S. officials said. Garang's death July 31, just three weeks after becoming vice president, shocked the nation and sparked riots in which 130 people were killed.


* BEIJING -- A flood has trapped 103 miners underground in China's southeastern Guangdong province, the official New China News Agency reported. Rescue efforts were under way at the Daxing mine in Xingning, the agency quoted a local official as saying. No further details were immediately available.

About 2,700 workers have died in mine accidents during the first half of the year. The number of accidents is more than double that for the same period in 2004, the news agency reported recently.

China, which relies on coal for more than two-thirds of its energy needs, is trying to improve standards in the disaster-plagued industry.

-- From News Services