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Archive for Saturday, April 30, 2005

Briefly - World

April 30, 2005

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Chile

Diplomat emerges as new OAS leader

Chilean Interior Minister Jose Miguel Insulza was assured election Friday as the next secretary-general of the Organization of American States after the withdrawal of Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez from the race.

The announcement was made by Colombian Foreign Minister Carolina Barco after discussions involving U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Insulza, Derbez and other Latin American diplomats.

At a foreign ministers meeting last month in Washington, Insulza and Derbez were deadlocked at 17 votes apiece. The United States backed Derbez but said either candidate would make an excellent secretary-general.

Rice and the other diplomats were here for a meeting of the Community of Democracies, an organization of 108 nations.

Insulza is expected to be elected unanimously when the OAS reconvenes Monday in Washington for the formal election. It was not clear why Derbez decided to withdraw.

Yemen

WHO: 18 new cases of polio detected

The U.N. health agency Friday reported 18 new cases of polio in Yemen and said more people were believed infected, sparking fears of an epidemic in the Middle Eastern country with a low immunization rate among children.

The disease spread across the country from four cases that were recorded last week in the Red Sea port of Al-Hudaydah. Yemen previously was believed to be to be free of the disease.

"What we're facing now is a major epidemic in Yemen," said David Heymann, chief of the World Health Organization's polio eradication campaign. The latest cases bring to 22 the number of confirmed instances of polio in the country.

Heymann said all the infected so far were children.

A nationwide immunization campaign is planned in May, Heymann said. WHO conducted one such vaccination drive last month, after it declared Yemen a high-risk country for polio reintroduction.

Liberia

U.N. investigates sex abuse allegations

U.N. peacekeepers sexually abused and exploited local women and girls in Liberia, a U.N. spokesman said Friday.

Stephane Dujarric said a preliminary investigation by the U.N. mission in Liberia indicated that some allegations against its personnel could be substantiated while others could not.

A U.N. official speaking on condition of anonymity said the total number of allegations could eventually total 20.

The head of the mission in Liberia, Jacques Paul Klein, is to step down when his contract expires at the end of the month, a U.N. spokesman announced Thursday. His deputy, Abou Moussa, will temporarily take over.

The allegations in Liberia are just the latest to be leveled against U.N. peacekeepers who have been accused of sexually abusing the very people they were sent to protect in missions from Bosnia and Kosovo to Cambodia, East Timor and Congo.

Peru

'Mermaid' baby marks birthday before surgery

Peru's "little mermaid" -- the baby born with legs fused together from her thighs to her ankles -- celebrated her first birthday Friday in the public hospital where doctors hope to perform risky surgery to repair her rare birth defect.

Wearing a blue dress with white stars and a princess' crown, Milagros Cerron giggled and bounced in her doctor's arms.

Dr. Luis Rubio estimated that within two months the baby would be ready for the first of three complicated operations to separate her legs.

Milagros was born with a rare congenital defect known as sirenomelia, or "mermaid syndrome," which occurs in one out of every 70,000 births. There are only three known cases of children with the affliction alive in the world today.

Babies born with the deformity almost always die within seven to 10 days of birth because of serious defects to vital organs, Rubio said.

Milagros has a deformed left kidney and a very small right one located very low in her body.

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