World briefs 2/14/05

Monday, February 14, 2005

Building unstable after Spanish skyscraper fire

MADRID, Spain -- Firefighters struggled for nearly 24 hours before finally controlling Madrid's worst blaze in recent memory, which reduced one of the city's tallest office buildings to a blackened hulk of twisted wreckage. Thick smoke and temperatures that soared as high as 1,472 degrees Fahrenheit prevented firefighters from entering the 32-story Windsor building until late Sunday. Officials said it was unstable and closed the area around the building.

Blair says he's hungry for a third term in office

GATESHEAD, England -- Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose popularity crashed in the wake of the Iraq war, sought Sunday to reconnect with the British public and appealed to voters for a third term in office. In a soul-searching speech to Labour Party loyalists ahead of May elections, Blair acknowledged that the war had strained his relationship with the party and the country. "And now you, the British people, have to sit down and decide whether you want this relationship to continue," Blair said.

Weather allows search for crashed Afghan jetliner

KABUL, Afghanistan -- NATO and Afghan troops on Sunday began an operation to recover the bodies of 104 people killed in the crash of an Afghan airliner 10 days after it smashed into a mountain in a snowstorm. The first clear weather in nearly a week allowed helicopters to ferry NATO mountain troops and Afghan soldiers to the snow-covered peak 20 miles east of the capital, Kabul, said Lt. Gen. Ethem Erdagi, the NATO force's Turkish commander. Sunday's search ended before the teams could recover any bodies.

Iran rejects European demands on nukes

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran rejected a European demand to stop building a heavy water nuclear reactor in return for a light-water reactor Sunday, hardening Iran's position on a key part of its nuclear facilities that critics claim is part of a weapons program. Iran has given indications in the past that it will insist on keeping its heavy water nuclear reactor, but Sunday's announcement is its clearest statement yet of its nuclear plans. It underscored the unresolved differences between Iranian and European negotiators, who are continuing their talks over Iran's nuclear program even as the United States escalates its criticism of Iran.

Commander of submarine that ran aground fired

TOKYO -- The commander of an attack submarine that ran aground in the western Pacific Ocean last month has been relieved from his post after an investigation found that critical safety procedures were overlooked. Cmdr. Kevin Mooney was relieved and reprimanded following disciplinary proceedings at the Yokosuka naval base just south of Tokyo, the U.S. Seventh Fleet said in a statement on its Web site Saturday. Officials weren't immediately available to comment.

Australian terror suspect says U.S. abused him

CANBERRA, Australia -- An Australian terror suspect released from U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, says he was beaten, given electric shocks, sexually humiliated and nearly drowned while under U.S. supervision. Mamdouh Habib, an Egyptian-born former coffee shop owner and father of four, returned to his hometown of Sydney last month after being held for more than three years without charge. He said three weeks after his capture, he was transferred to Egypt where he was tortured daily for six months before he was sent via Afghanistan to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

China says it will push for talks with N. Korea

SEOUL, South Korea -- China has pledged to try to revive talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear programs, after the isolated, Stalinist state's declaration that it had atomic weapons and was boycotting disarmament negotiations. The United States and other countries involved in the six-party talks have called on China to use its influence over North Korea. Beijing is Pyong-yang's last major ally and a key supplier of food and energy to the impoverished dictatorship.

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