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Archive for Thursday, May 12, 2005

Briefly

May 12, 2005

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Moscow

Police find remains after search for children

Police believe the charred remains of several children found in a Siberian city may be the bodies of five boys who went missing in April, sparking a massive three-week search, a regional prosecutor said Wednesday.

The bodies were found about a mile from the boys' homes on the outskirts of Krasnoyarsk, about 2,100 miles east of Moscow, police said.

Investigators did not detect any signs of violent death and said the children may have died from an accidental fire, the Internet news Web site Gazeta.ru reported.

Authorities offered a reward for information and police combed nearby forests, city markets and buildings after the boys, aged 9 to 12, disappeared April 16. Several thousand people called in sightings of the children and volunteers joined in the search.

Investigators found a key from the apartment of one of the missing schoolchildren among the remains, but DNA tests will be conducted to establish the identity of the corpses, the Krasnoyarsk region's chief prosecutor, Viktor Grin, said in televised remarks.

Toronto

Confidence vote to be held next week

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin said Wednesday that a vote of confidence in his scandal-rocked government would be held May 19, as members of Parliament gather to vote on whether to approve his federal budget.

If the budget motion fails, Martin said he would dissolve the 308-seat House of Commons, which would trigger general elections in June.

"I am proposing there will be a vote on the budget and that bill will be a matter of confidence," Martin told reporters following an emergency meeting with his Cabinet.

Should the government be defeated next week, the earliest date for general elections would be June 27.

Martin's Liberal Party ignored a vote in Parliament on Tuesday night, in which a slight majority passed a motion recommending that the prime minister should resign. The Liberals and constitutional experts insisted the vote was out of order, however.

London

Loyalists back Blair against party rebels

Tony Blair urged his Labour Party to unite Wednesday, reassuring lawmakers he would resign before the next election and confronting critics who blame him for a disappointingly slim margin of victory.

The closed-door meeting was Blair's first battle with party rebels since Thursday's election, when an apparent voter backlash over the Iraq war reduced Labour's majority in the 646-seat House of Commons from 161 to 67.

Loyalists thumped their desks in appreciation of Blair, but in an apparent sign of his vulnerability, Blair told legislators he would work toward a smooth and orderly transition for new leadership in the party.

Of the 23 legislators who spoke at Wednesday's meeting, only five were openly hostile to Blair, a Labour Party spokesman said.

South Korea

North Korea signals nuclear intentions

Pushing its nuclear weapons program forward, North Korea announced Wednesday that it had removed fuel rods from its main reactor in a key preparatory step for extracting weapons-grade plutonium.

North Korea also said it intended to resume construction on two nuclear reactors that were mothballed under a now defunct 1994 treaty with the United States.

"Necessary measures to bolster its nuclear arsenal" is how North Korea referred to the moves in a statement attributed to an unnamed Foreign Ministry official and carried over the official news service.

The defiant announcement from Pyongyang, the capital, is sure to add to an aura of crisis building around the North's weapons program.

The 8,000 fuel rods that North Korea says it removed from a 5-megawatt reactor at its main nuclear compound in Yongbyon could produce enough plutonium for three nuclear bombs.

South Korea, which has otherwise reacted calmly to recent provocative moves by North Korea, expressed alarm Wednesday at the latest development.

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