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Archive for Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Briefly

February 22, 2005

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Maldives

Former presidents wrap up tsunami tour

Wrapping up a tour of tsunami-ravaged nations, Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush sat with child survivors at a temporary shelter in southern Sri Lanka on Monday, and mingled with European tourists at a luxury beach resort in the Maldives.

The children danced, sang and drew pictures of their experiences.

"Some of them are still drawing about the tsunami, and some of them are drawing life as they remember it, and as they want it to be again," Clinton said in the fishing town of Weligama on Sri Lanka's battered southern coast.

The purpose of the three-day tour, which included stops in Thailand and the devastated Indonesian province of Aceh, was to encourage more donations for a reconstruction process across the Indian Ocean region that is expected to take years.

President Bush asked his father and Clinton, former political adversaries, to lead the American effort to raise private funds for tsunami relief. The former presidents said they planned to deliver a report to the younger Bush on March 8.

Brazil

President committed to catching nun's killers

Brazil's president promised Monday that federal authorities would capture the remaining suspects in the killing of an American nun who died trying to protect the Amazon rain forest and peasants living there.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva spoke a day after a second suspect was taken into custody in connection with the killing of 73-year-old Dorothy Stang, who was shot to death Feb. 12 in the lawless Amazon state of Para, where conflicts are common among peasants, loggers, land speculators and ranchers.

The suspect taken into custody Sunday, Rayfran das Neves Sales, is believed to be one of the two gunmen who killed Stang with six shots in a settlement near the rural town of Anapu, about 870 miles north of Brasilia, police said.

The first suspect detained, Amair Freijoli da Cunha, is accused of hiring the gunmen, although he has denied any involvement. He was charged Sunday with conspiracy to murder.

Authorities are still searching for a second gunman and a rancher suspected of ordering the killing.

Portugal

Socialists win election in landslide

Socialist leader Jose Socrates was expected to take his first formal step today toward becoming Portugal's fourth prime minister in three years, meeting with the country's president after his center-left party won in a landslide.

The Socialists, who have promised to modernize Portugal's backward economy, earned 45 percent of the vote Sunday to secure 120 seats in the 230-seat legislature -- the party's biggest win at the polls.

President Jorge Sampaio is to formally invite Socrates before the end of the week to form a government. The swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for mid-March.

Portugal's unemployment rate has risen to a six-year high of 7.1 percent. Statistics show the country of 10.3 million lags economically behind the rest of the European Union.

India

Iran courting foreign investment

Iran is attracting more foreign investment than before despite repeated U.S. accusations over its nuclear program, Tehran's foreign minister said as he wooed Indian investors Monday.

The United States accuses Iran of having a secret program to make nuclear weapons and Washington has been pushing for sanctions by the U.N. Security Council. Iran insists its nuclear activities are for peaceful energy purposes.

"For long, we have been sanctioned by the Americans," Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told a business gathering in the Indian capital. "In spite of American sanctions, there has been a flow of more than $5 billion in the last two years."

Kharrazi was in New Delhi to boost economic ties and discuss a proposal to bring Iranian gas to India using a pipeline through Pakistan.

Sierra Leone

U.N. investigator guilty of molestation

An Australian investigator for a U.N.-backed war-crimes tribunal was convicted Monday in Freetown of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl who sought a job as a nanny in his household.

Australian police officer Peter Halloran, 56, was sentenced to 1 1/2 years in prison.

"This is a very serious offense, taking advantage of a schoolgirl searching for a job," Judge Samuel Ademosu said in passing sentence.

Halloran came to Sierra Leone in 2004 as an investigator for the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal, which is trying rebels and government-allied fighters for abuses committed during the West African nation's 1991-2002 civil war.

The war-crimes court suspended Halloran after the sexual abuse allegations emerged in August. That court carried out its own investigation, but found insufficient evidence to support a case.

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