World briefs 7/28/04

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Fidel Castro denies Bush sex tourism charges

SANTA CLARA, Cuba -- Fidel Castro rejected charges by President Bush that he promotes sex tourism in Cuba, then went on the offensive to dredge up old reports about his American nemesis' alleged past drinking habits. Castro vigorously denied Bush's recent allegations, saying that what the White House believes is "that which the president makes up in his head, whether it corresponds to reality or not." Earlier this month, Bush accused Castro of turning Cuba into a major destination for sex tourism, which is "a vital source of hard currency to keep his corrupt government afloat."

Large group of N. Koreans defect to South Korea

SEOUL, South Korea -- About 200 North Korean defectors, the largest group ever to reach South Korea, arrived in the capital on Tuesday, to be followed soon by an even larger group, according to a news report. A trickle of defectors to the South has grown into a steady stream in recent years as more North Koreans flee hunger and repression in their communist country, mostly fleeing across its long border with China before heading to other countries.

Former American hostage returns to Philippines

MANILA, Philippines -- An American missionary who was held hostage by Muslim extremists for 377 days has returned to the Philippines under tight security to testify against her abductors, officials said Tuesday. Gracia Burnham, whose husband Martin was killed during a bloody military rescue mission on June 7, 2002, was invited to testify Thursday against her Abu Sayyaf abductors in a suburban court.

Bomb threat on United flight declared hoax

SYDNEY, Australia -- A written bomb threat forced a United Airlines jet to return to Sydney International Airport on Tuesday after it took off for Los Angeles, but police declared the threat a hoax after interviewing all 246 passengers. The hoax occurred days after a purported al-Qaida affiliate in Europe, the Tawhid Islamic Group, warned it would turn Australia into "pools of blood" if the government did not withdraw its troops from Iraq.

European survey divides countries by work ethic

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Slovenians apparently are Europe's busiest people, while Germans and Norwegians are among the biggest loafers, according to a "time use" survey of 10 countries released Tuesday. Using data collected between 1998 and 2002 for employed men and women, the European Union statistics office found sleep consumed the greatest part of the day for everyone.

Leftist rebels free held Colombian bishop

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Marxist guerrillas freed a Roman Catholic bishop unharmed Tuesday, three days after he was abducted in an effort to use him to deliver a political message to authorities, church officials said. Misael Vacca Ramirez, the bishop of Yopal, was released close to where he was taken in remote mountains near Morcote.-- From wire reports

STDs on the rise in Britain despite education

LONDON -- Rates of sexually transmitted infections in Britain rose again last year despite new programs aimed at reining in a decade of increases, health experts said Tuesday. The number of infections -- 708,083 -- was 4 percent higher than in 2002, but Britain's Health Protection Agency said the pace of the increase appears to be slowing. The statistics do not include HIV infections, which are tracked separately.

Israeli defense minister OKs barrier change

JERUSALEM -- Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz approved a new construction plan Tuesday that brings Israel's West Bank barrier closer to the 1967 boundary with territory out of which the Palestinians hope to create an independent state. The change in the route is meant to comply with a ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court that the structure's original route violated Palestinian rights and international law.

U.N. to discuss revised Sudan resolution

UNITED NATIONS -- The United States sent a revised U.N. draft resolution on Sudan to Security Council ambassadors Tuesday, keeping the threat of sanctions despite calls to give the Sudanese government more time to deal with Arab militias blamed for killing thousands. Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said his country would retaliate against any foreign troops, reflecting concerns among some Arabs that the United States plans to follow its invasion of Iraq with an attempt to remake the region.

-- From wire reports

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