Archive for Monday, May 16, 2005

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May 16, 2005

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Iran

Bill urges resumption of uranium enrichment

Iranian lawmakers instructed the government Sunday to develop a nuclear fuel cycle, which would include resuming the process of enriching uranium -- a prospect that has drawn criticism from the United States and Europe because it could be used in developing atomic weapons.

Iran suspended enrichment of uranium six months ago under international pressure led by the United States, which accuses Tehran of trying to make nuclear weapons. Iran maintains its program is peaceful and only aimed at generating electricity.

The European Union has threatened to take Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions if it again starts uranium reprocessing. Enriched uranium is useful in the generation of electricity, which is permitted under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but it also can be turned into nuclear weapons.

A spokesman for Iran's foreign ministry said it would give Europe one "last chance" in nuclear talks.

The bill approved Sunday by 188 of the 205 deputies attending the parliamentary session doesn't force the government to immediately resume uranium enrichment but pressures it not to give up its nuclear program, including uranium enrichment.

Ethiopia

Voters overwhelm polling offices

Ethiopians voted by the millions Sunday, responding enthusiastically to an unprecedentedly open parliamentary race between the coalition that ended a brutal dictatorship and an opposition promising greater liberalization.

The worst problem foreign election observers found was the crowds, with some voters waiting hours to cast their ballots. But a senior opposition official said after the vote that his party's observers had been chased out of polling centers where ballots were being tallied.

"In many places our poll watchers are being kicked out and we don't know who is counting the vote," said Berhanu Nega, vice chairman of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy.

His party had not yet decided whether to accept the results. "This is too important to rush into a decision," he said. "We need to get all data."

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, known as one of the continent's more progressive leaders, pledged that his sometimes authoritarian government would introduce greater democracy.

But late Sunday he banned demonstrations in Addis Ababa starting today and took control of the capital's police force.

Berhanu said the ban was an attempt to cover up voting fraud.

Myanmar

Rulers suggest U.S. had role in bomb attacks

Myanmar's ruling military junta implied Sunday that the CIA had funded terrorists -- trained in neighboring Thailand -- who carried out a recent string of bombings.

Information Minister Brig. Gen. Kyaw Hsan also raised the death toll from the May 7 bombings at two upscale supermarkets and a convention center in the capital, Yangon, from at least 11 to 19. More than 160 others were injured.

The junta blamed the attacks on three major ethnic rebel groups and on exiled pro-democracy politicians who have formed a government-in-exile.

Kyaw Hsan told a news conference Sunday that investigators found that the bombs used in the attacks were not available in Myanmar but were used by terrorists trained in a "neighboring country by an internationally known organization of a superpower country."

He declined to identify the organization but apparently was referring to the CIA.

China

Japan to dismantle more WWII arms

The Japanese and Chinese governments have started talks on constructing a series of small facilities around China to dismantle chemical weapons abandoned by the Imperial Japanese Army at the end of World War II, Japanese government sources said.

The facilities will be separate from a large plant already planned in the Haerbaling district in Jilin Province.

Tokyo judged it necessary to locate the facilities throughout China to safely and efficiently dismantle chemical weapons dotted across the country.

The government plans to start construction of the Haerbaling plant this summer, the sources said.

The two governments held meetings with specialists in Beijing from April 25 to 28, and agreed to consider building small facilities near 12 sites where abandoned chemical weapons are stored.

About 37,000 chemical weapons have been unearthed and recovered, mainly in northeastern China.

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