World briefs 2/16/04

Monday, February 16, 2004

U.S. troops arrive at navy base in the Philippines

SUBIC, Philippines -- A contingent of 700 U.S. Marines disembarked Sunday at the site of a former American naval base to take part in combat exercises intended to help the Philippines fight Muslim and communist insurgencies and guard against terror attacks. About 2,500 Marines from the U.S. base in Okinawa, Japan, will take part in live-fire combat maneuvers called "Balikatan," or "shoulder-to-shoulder," from Feb. 23 to March 7. The rest of the American troops are scheduled to arrive within a week. The Marine contingent docked at Subic Bay, site of a former U.S. naval base about 55 miles northwest of Manila.

Myanmar opposition figure moved from prison

YANGON, Myanmar -- Myanmar's military rulers have released the deputy leader of the main opposition party from prison and placed him under house arrest at his home in the capital, family members said Sunday. Tin Oo, the 77-year-old vice chairman of the National League for Democracy, was brought from Kale prison to his home late Saturday, his family said. He had been held at the prison since a May 30 clash between a pro-junta mob and activists following opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on a political tour of northern Myanmar. At least four people were killed. Outside the opposition official's home, more than six security officers stood guard. One said that only family members would be allowed to visit him.

Kurdish leader expects council to take power

NAJAF, Iraq -- A prominent Kurdish leader expects the Iraqi Governing Council to take power on June 30 if the dispute between the United States and the Shiite Muslim clergy over the timing of elections cannot be resolved. Jalal Talabani, a member of the Governing Council, made the comment late Saturday after meeting here with Grand Ayatollah Ali ali-Husseini al-Sistani, the prominent Shiite cleric whose demand for early elections has thrown the U.S. blueprint for transferring power into doubt. Talabani told reporters that he expects the power transfer to take place on schedule and "we think that elections are the best way to express the opinions of the Iraqi people."

Iraqi police nab No. 41 of most-wanted Iraqis

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Iraqi police captured a former Baath Party chairman Saturday who was No. 41 on the U.S. military's most-wanted list, leaving only 10 fugitives from the list still at large. Mohammed Zimam Abdul-Razaq -- the four of spades in the military's "deck of cards" of 55 most-wanted Iraqis -- was arrested at one of his homes in western Baghdad, Deputy Interior Minister Ahmed Kadhum Ibrahim told journalists. Abdul-Razaq sat next to the Iraqi official wearing a traditional black robe. Ibrahim said he did not resist arrest. Under Saddam Hussein, Abdul-Razaq was the Baath Party regional chairman in the northern provinces of Nineveh and Tamim, which include the city of Kirkuk.-- From wire reports

Gaza journalists protest violence against Palestinian media

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Journalists briefly occupied the Palestinian legislative building in Gaza on Sunday to protest a series of mysterious attacks on reporters. The some 200 Palestinian protesters marched into the empty legislative building and occupied the vacant seats of the chairman and other assembly members. The journalists also refused to report on the Palestinian security services, and interior and justice ministries until the government responded to their concerns. The protesters left the building several hours later after a top aide to Yasser Arafat said the Palestinian leader is committed to finding who was behind the violence.

China shopping mall fire kills at least 53; fire at temple kills 39

BEIJING -- A fire at a crowded shopping mall killed at least 53 people Sunday in China's northeast, while 39 died in a blaze in a temple in the southeast, state media said. The fires added to a string of deadly accidents despite repeated government vows to improve public safety. Fires, coal mine accidents and other disasters blamed on shoddy construction, indifference to safety rules and other negligence occur frequently in China, killing scores of people at a time. President Hu Jintao and other officials have vowed to make safety for ordinary Chinese a priority. But repeated crackdowns and threats to punish negligent officials appear to be having little effect. The government says the number of people killed in industrial accidents last year jumped by 9 percent from the previous year.

Iran offers to sell its potential nuclear fuel in global markets

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran declared Sunday it plans to sell nuclear reactor fuel internationally, establishing the Islamic republic as a country in possession of technology the United States wants to keep from spreading. Announcing the decision, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said Iran has made an "important achievement" in possessing the technology to enrich uranium, and insisted the project would be for peaceful use. Once Iran produces nuclear fuel, it will market it under the strict supervision of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, he said. He added that Iran has suspended uranium enrichment, "but this does not mean that we will give up this industry, which is our national pride."

Roof collapse kills 25 in Moscow; search called off

MOSCOW -- Russian rescue workers pumped warm air into the ruins of an indoor water park Sunday, vainly hoping the heat would help victims survive freezing temperatures a day after a roof collapse killed at least 25 people and injured more than 100. As many as 17 people remain missing, presumably buried under debris of the Transvaal Park on Moscow's southwestern outskirts, officials said. Rescuers shoveled snow from the tangled mass of steel and concrete, some standing atop a large stone that appeared to be part of a mock tropical scene. They also brought in generators and search dogs, which cut their paws on broken glass while sniffing through debris.

-- From wire reports

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