Indian Minister Demoted

Over Oil-for-Food Findings

NEW DELHI -- India's foreign minister, Natwar Singh, was removed from his post Monday following charges that he and the governing Congress party received illegal profits from the U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq.

Singh, 74, and the party were named by a U.N. panel last month as beneficiaries of illegal oil deals from the program, which permitted the government of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein -- which was under U.N. sanctions -- to sell oil and use the proceeds for food and other humanitarian goods.

The charges brought on a political crisis for the ruling party and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who summoned the foreign minister on Monday to his official residence, demoted and transferred him to the post of minister without portfolio, according to a statement issued by the prime minister's office. The two men are not related.

Natwar Singh has denied the charges, and told the private NDTV television network last week that he had never heard of the Swiss company he was accused of involvement with in the deal, and that he didn't "even know how to go and buy oil. And what a barrel looks like." He said then that he had no intention of stepping down.

On Monday, the government appointed a former chief justice to head an inquiry into the affair, the second it has launched in as many days.

-- John Lancaster

THE AMeRICAS

* TORONTO -- One of Canada's opposition parties withdrew its support for the scandal-ridden minority Liberal government on Monday, setting the stage for its possible collapse and an election in December or early January.

The leader of the New Democratic Party, Jack Layton, said his party would vote against the Liberals in any future confidence vote. Canada's other opposition parties said they would do the same, though none would commit to putting forward such a motion.

The policy shift by the New Democrats came after recent opinion polls showed a slump in support for the Liberals following the release of a report into a government corruption scandal. The report highlighted kickbacks to Quebec Liberals during a badly administered advertising campaign to boost the image of Canada in the French-speaking province.

ASIA

* BEIJING -- Stepping up its fight against bird flu, China said it had killed 6 million birds around the site of its latest outbreak and ordered the immediate closure of all 168 live poultry markets in Beijing.

Meanwhile, investigations were continuing into whether three people -- including a 12-year-old girl who died -- were the nation's first known human cases of the disease that has killed at least 62 people elsewhere in Asia since 2003.

In Liaoning province east of Beijing, authorities have destroyed 6 million birds in 15 villages near the site of an outbreak that killed 8,940 chickens, the New China News Agency said.

* ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- One month after South Asia's massive earthquake, the regional death toll jumped to 87,350 following a new count of Pakistan's casualties, officials said.

Pakistan's official toll rose by 13,000 -- from 73,000 to 86,000 -- following a broad assessment headed by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, working with local provincial governments and aid agencies, a senior Pakistani Finance Ministry official said.

India has reported 1,350 deaths in its portion of Kashmir.

EUROPE

* BELFAST -- Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams canceled a planned visit to the United States this week after the U.S. government denied him permission to raise funds for his party.

Adams had been scheduled to fly to New York on Tuesday to attend a fundraising dinner to mark Sinn Fein's 100th anniversary, but U.S. authorities withheld an exemption on his visa that would have allowed him to raise cash. The withholding appeared intended to put pressure on Adams to support a reformed policing service in Northern Ireland.

-- From Staff Reports and News Services