World briefs 2/23/06

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Putin: Russia's talks with Iran not going easily

BAKU, Azerbaijan -- Talks with Iran on a Russian proposal aimed at resolving an international crisis over Tehran's suspected nuclear weapons program are not going "easily," President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday. "The talks are not going easily, but we are counting on reaching a positive result," Putin told journalists on a visit to Azerbaijan. The Russian leader said that the Kremlin's offer to enrich uranium for Tehran to avert suspicions that the Iranians could divert the nuclear fuel for atomic weapons should be "perfectly acceptable" to Iran and could be used as "a means to solve the problem."

Sharon has procedure to remove stomach fluid

JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon underwent a minor procedure Wednesday to remove fluid from his stomach after a scan uncovered the problem, Hadassah Hospital said in a statement. The prime minister has been hospitalized since Jan. 4 when he suffered a massive stroke that left him in a coma. Sharon remained in stable but serious condition Wednesday, the Jerusalem hospital said.

Exiled Haitian leader ready to return to Haiti

PRETORIA, South Africa -- Ousted Haitian leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide said Wednesday he was ready to end what he called an unconstitutional exile, but the timing of his return was up to his former protege, the nation's newly elected president. In an interview with international news agencies, Aristide congratulated the Haitian people and President-elect Rene Preval, whom he called "my president," on the Feb. 7 election, only the fourth in Haiti's 202 years of independence. Preval was belatedly declared victor Feb. 16 as ongoing protests over alleged election irregularities threatened to turn violent. "What happened indicates the road toward freedom and democracy and not toward coups d'etat," he said Wednesday. Aristide has been a guest of the South African government in a villa in the presidential compound since he was ousted in February 2004 amid street protests and an armed uprising in the former French colony. He said he expected to hear soon when he could return home.

Pope Benedict chooses 15 men as new cardinals

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI named 15 new cardinals Wednesday, including John Paul II's longtime private secretary and prelates from Boston and Hong Kong, adding his first installment to the elite group of churchmen who will elect his successor. Benedict read aloud the names during his weekly general audience and said they would be elevated during a March 24 ceremony at the Vatican. Those chosen to receive the "red hats" that the so-called princes of the church wear include the archbishops of Caracas, Venezuela; Seoul, South Korea; Bordeaux, France; Toledo, Spain; and Manila, Philippines. Two Americans also were named -- Benedict's successor at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop William Levada, and Boston Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley. Both have been involved in the response to the clergy sex abuse scandal in the United States.

Violence continues in southern Nigerian city

LAGOS, Nigeria -- Bodies littered the streets of the southern Nigerian city of Onitsha on Wednesday as the death toll from days of Christian-Muslim violence across this volatile West African nation rose to at least 93. The sectarian violence was sparked by deadly weekend protests against newspaper caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. It is the worst to hit Nigeria since 2004, when Muslim-Christian skirmishes in the north killed more than 700 people. Thousands of people have died in religious violence since 2000.

-- From wire reports

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