Archive for Sunday, February 8, 2004

Briefly

February 8, 2004

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Sri Lanka

President unexpectedly dissolves parliament

Sri Lanka's president dissolved parliament on Saturday, paving the way for elections nearly three years ahead of schedule, a top presidential official said.

Japadasa Peiris, a senior aide to President Chandrika Kumaratunga, said the vote would be April 2 and the new parliament would meet April 23.

Peiris did not give a reason for the president's decision to dissolve the 225-member legislature and call early elections, but said she would address the nation shortly.

Brazil

2nd American pays fine for obscene gesture

A second American paid a hefty fine for making an obscene gesture during fingerprinting procedures for U.S. citizens in Brazil, police said Saturday.

Douglas A. Skolnick will be allowed to leave the southeastern resort town of Foz do Iguacu with his tour group today after paying $17,200 for raising his middle finger when he was fingerprinted and photographed, said federal police spokesman Marcos Koren.

The customs requirements were imposed in response to similar U.S. rules for citizens of Brazil and other countries.

Skolnick, who arrived Friday in Brazil, was taken before a judge early Saturday after being arrested and jailed for hours on the charge of showing contempt to authorities.

Moscow

Officials seek tighter security after blast

Russian officials renewed calls Saturday for tighter security checks in Moscow after a subway bombing killed 39 people, moves that could worsen ethnic tensions as blame for the attack fell on Chechen rebels.

Officials strongly suspected the Friday-morning rush-hour blast was a suicide bombing, and President Vladimir Putin pointed to insurgents fighting Russian troops for Chechen independence for most of the past decade.

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov said registration procedures for people traveling into the Russian capital would be "sharply, powerfully strengthened."

Afghanistan

Factional fighting flares

Fighting between rival warlords -- possibly over drugs -- left one person dead in remote northern Afghanistan, a senior official said Saturday, confirming a renewed outbreak of the factional violence dogging efforts to stabilize the country.

Clashes erupted Thursday evening near Orgo in Badakhshan province, Deputy Interior Minister Hilalludin Hillal told The Associated Press.

Afghan television had reported that as many as 20 people were killed and another 40 wounded; Hillal said only one person was dead and five were injured.

Iran

President agrees to go ahead with elections

President Mohammad Khatami said he would obey orders from Iran's supreme leader to conduct legislative elections Feb. 20, but warned they would not be fair because thousands of reformist candidates had been disqualified.

In a joint letter sent to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday, Khatami and Parliament Speaker Mahdi Karroubi wrote that the government would hold the elections as scheduled only because Khamenei had ordered it to do so, but that people would have little motivation to vote.

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