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Archive for Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Briefly

December 1, 2004

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Russia

China displeased with Dalai Lama visit

Thousands of Buddhist pilgrims trekked to a temple in the southern republic of Kalmykia on Tuesday for prayers led by the Dalai Lama during his first visit to Russia in a decade.

The Buddhist spiritual leader had been denied entry to Russia for years because of Moscow's concerns about potentially damaging its strategic relationship with Beijing. The Dalai Lama lives in exile in India and leads Tibetans who have resisted half a century of Chinese rule.

China expressed dismay over the visit.

"We cannot understand why Russia granted him permission to visit, and we hope that Russia can strictly abide by ... relevant political agreements between the two sides," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiye.

Jerusalem

Media told to stop anti-Israeli content

Interim Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas ordered a halt to anti-Israel incitement in government-controlled media, officials said Tuesday, meeting a key Israeli demand and adding to the new signs of goodwill that have emerged since the death of Yasser Arafat.

Israel has long complained of incitement in the Palestinian media, citing fiery anti-Israel broadcasts by Muslim preachers and programs praising the killing of Jews. It blamed Arafat, who died Nov. 11, for the objectionable content.

Radwan Abu Ayyash, head of Palestinian radio and television, said he instructed all of his department heads, at the request of Abbas, not to broadcast offensive material.

"Abu Mazen asked us to be sure that the material we broadcast does not contain any material that could be considered incitement," he said, referring to Abbas by his nickname.

Havana

Dissident writer among freed Cubans

Cuban authorities on Tuesday freed dissident writer Raul Rivero, the latest of half a dozen political prisoners released over the past few days in a move widely seen as intended to court favor with the European Union.

"This was a gesture to improve relations, little by little," the 59-year-old Rivero said, speaking from his modest Havana apartment, where he was surrounded by family and several international journalists hours after his release.

Rivero, the best-known among 75 dissidents rounded up in a crackdown in March 2003, was freed on medical parole after a checkup at a Havana prison hospital for emphysema and cysts on a kidney.

He had been sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of working with the United States to undermine Fidel Castro's communist government.

Congo

Leaders allege attack by Rwandan troops

Senior Congolese officials charged Tuesday that Rwandan President Paul Kagame had made good on his threat to invade, claiming Rwandan troops had crossed into eastern Congo and were clashing with militias there.

U.N. officials said they were investigating the invasion claims -- allegations that came as Kagame told his country's parliament that Rwandan troops "might" already be in Congo, pursuing Rwandan rebels based there.

Congo's government protested, while a Congolese Cabinet minister on the scene in the east, Mbusa Nyamwisi, said: "We are on a war footing."

Speaking from the eastern town of Beni, he said there was fighting nearby -- "We are being attacked by the Rwandan troops," he said.

Lawless eastern Congo was the scene of the worst fighting in a devastating 1998-2002 central African war, and remains home to numerous, vying militias.

Romania

Opposition wants election results annulled

The leader of Romania's opposition party demanded Tuesday that the results of weekend presidential and parliamentary elections be annulled because of fraud and a new vote be held.

Presidential candidate Traian Basescu, who heads the centrist Justice and Truth Alliance, said election authorities gave an extra 160,000 ballots, or 2.5 percent of the votes cast, to his main rival, Prime Minister Adrian Nastase of the ruling Social Democratic Party.

"The entire electoral process is compromised. The repetition of the election is necessary," Basescu said.

With about 90 percent of votes counted Tuesday, Nastase won almost 41 percent and Basescu almost 34 percent, leading to a runoff vote set for Dec. 12.

Social Democratic Party spokesman Miron Mitrea dismissed the accusations as coming from "sore losers."

Victor Pasca, a deputy chairman of the Central Election Bureau, said that canceling the first round would be pointless because the president will be chosen in the runoff.

About 3,300 Romanians from the independent Pro Democracy Assn. and 50 foreign observers monitored the vote.

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