World briefs 3/13/06

Monday, March 13, 2006

Iran rules out Russian nuclear compromise

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran ruled out a Russian proposal aimed at easing tensions over its nuclear program Sunday, drawing criticism from a senior lawmaker in Moscow who said the decision destroyed the last chance for compromise before the U.N. Security Council takes on the issue this week. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi also warned that Iran is considering large-scale uranium enrichment at home as a response to the International Atomic Energy Agency's decision to refer Tehran to the Security Council. However, Tehran did back away from a threat to use oil as an economic weapon if the council should impose sanctions.

Police clamp down on kites at Pakistani festival

LAHORE, Pakistan -- Skies normally alive with colorful kites to mark a spring festival were largely empty Sunday after police arrested 1,400 people over three days to enforce a ban imposed because of a series of fatal accidents. The government of Punjab province, of which Lahore is the capital, banned kite flying during this weekend's annual Basant festival after seven people died from being slashed by kite strings reinforced with wire or glass fiber. Police spokesman Malik Munir Ahmed said Sunday that at least 1,430 people had been detained since Friday, most for flying kites and others for firing celebratory gunshots into the air and playing loud music.

Chavez raises new flag with horse galloping left

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuela's president raised a new national flag on Sunday with changes that he said pay tribute to the independence hero Simon Bolivar. Critics of President Hugo Chavez call the change -- which will affect Venezuela's currency and passports -- frivolous and wasteful. The flag features a white horse galloping left instead of right, an additional star, a bow and arrow representing Venezuela's indigenous people and a machete to represent the labor of workers, among other changes. Chavez, who has been leading what he calls a "Bolivarian Revolution" to install socialism and help the poor, hoisted the flag, applauded and smiled as soldiers stood at attention during an outdoor ceremony on the 200th anniversary of Venezuela's tricolor flag. "The white horse is now liberated, free, vigorous, trotting toward the left, representing the return of Bolivar and his dream," said Chavez.

-- From wire reports

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