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Archive for Saturday, February 26, 2005

Briefly - World

February 26, 2005

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Paris

Finance official resigns amid rental scandal

France's embattled finance minister resigned Friday after allegations he used government money to rent an $18,500-a-month apartment for his family while trying to control public spending as a Cabinet member.

President Jacques Chirac within hours named France Telecom boss Thierry Breton to succeed Herve Gaymard, who had spent less than three months at the finance ministry.

The 44-year-old Gaymard, who took over the finance ministry in November, was first criticized last week when the satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine revealed that he, his wife and eight children were living in a duplex paid for by the government.

The revelations were embarrassing not least because the government has been seeking to control public spending and an unemployment rate that reached 10 percent in January for the first time in five years.

Congo

Nine U.N. peacekeepers killed in ambush

Gunmen killed nine U.N. Bangladeshi peacekeeping troops Friday in an ambush in northeastern Congo, the deadliest assault ever on the 6-year-old mission trying to shepherd the nation out of the chaos of a civil war that left some 3 million dead.

The attack occurred near the town of Kafe as 21 Bangladeshi peacekeepers were patrolling in the area of a camp housing families displaced by persistent fighting in Congo's lawless Ituri province, U.N. spokesman Mamadou Bah said.

The assailants are believed to have been hiding in the thick grass along the roadside and pounced on the patrol as it drove past, said Col. Dominique Demange, head of U.N. troops in Congo. The gunmen escaped.

Haiti

Protesters throw rocks at U.N. peacekeepers

Dozens of protesters burned tires and threw rocks at U.N. peacekeepers Friday in a Port-au-Prince slum, accusing them of standing by while Haitian police shot dead at least two men and left their bodies in a nearby street. U.N. troops said they did not know how the men died.

They were the latest among 10 victims shot and killed in escalating violence in the capital of Port-au-Prince.

Brazilian troops in jeeps and light armored vehicles drove up and down a major street in Bel Air, a slum filled with supporters of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, with M-16s and rotating machine guns at the ready.

"No more U.N.! No more U.N.!" protesters screamed as they hurled rocks and then ran behind parked cars. The crowd also called for the return of Aristide.

Haiti's first freely elected president was toppled a year ago after a three-week rebellion led by former soldiers and a street gang, but he remains the most popular politician in the Caribbean nation of 8 million.

Iran

Russia's nuclear chief to sign deal with Iran

Russia's top nuclear official will sign a deal today to supply Iran with fuel for its first nuclear reactor, an Iranian official said. The agreement has safeguards meant to banish fears of misuse for nuclear weapons, but it is sure to add to U.S. concerns a day after the U.S.-Russian presidential summit.

The United States and Israel fear Iranians could use the Bushehr reactor to build nuclear weapons. Russian officials argue that cannot happen because the deal calls for spent fuel to be returned, and U.N. nuclear experts will monitor the facility.

Vietnam

Health officials seek $300M to fight bird flu

The world's nations need to spend up to $300 million a year to contain the spread of bird flu so it doesn't cause a pandemic that could kill millions of people, global health officials warned Friday.

The global response to outbreaks of bird flu in Asia over the past year has fallen far short given the threat it could pose to human health, they said.

Since the problem first arose in Southeast Asia last year, bird flu has killed 45 people in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. A new case of human infection was reported Friday in northern Vietnam.

So far, health officials think nearly all the people who have died from the disease became sick after having contact with infected poultry.

Togo

Military-installed leader plans to step down

Facing mounting international pressure since Togo's military installed him as leader three weeks ago, President Faure Gnassingbe announced late Friday he was stepping down and would seek the presidency in April elections.

Gnassingbe resigned just hours after accepting his party's nomination for the presidential bid. He said parliament would name an interim leader to serve until an elected president takes office.

Gnassingbe had been under growing pressure from the United States, the United Nations and West African leaders to resign since he was installed Feb. 5 after the death of his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled the country for 38 years and was Africa's longest-serving leader.

His earlier refusal to step down had prompted the Economic Community of West African States to impose sanctions on the government of this West Africa nation, including an arms embargo and a travel ban. The African Union announced it was joining in the sanctions and suspended the country from all AU activities.

Iraq

Government arrests terror group leader

The Iraqi interim government announced the arrest of a man it described as a key figure in the country's most feared terrorist group and expressed confidence Friday it was tightening the noose around his leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Word of the capture came as insurgents ambushed a U.S. patrol, killing three American soldiers and wounding nine. Friday's attack took place in Tarmiyah, about 20 miles north of the capital.

Talib Mikhlif Arsan Walman al-Dulaymi, also known as Abu Qutaybah, was arrested Sunday in a raid by Iraqi security services in Annah, a Sunni triangle town 160 miles northwest of Baghdad, the government said.

The government said Al-Dulaymi was a top aide to the Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi, who has described himself as al-Qaida's leader in Iraq. Al-Dulaymi was responsible for finding safe houses and transportation for members of the terrorist group, according to the announcement.

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