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Archive for Thursday, May 26, 2005

Briefly

May 26, 2005

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Indonesia

U.S. closes embassy for security reasons

The United States closed its embassy and all other diplomatic offices in Indonesia today, citing a security threat.

The decision comes a week after Australia urged its citizens to avoid traveling to Indonesia because of a warning by police in Jakarta about possible suicide bombings, particularly at embassies, international schools, office buildings and malls.

In an e-mailed statement, U.S. officials said the American embassy in Jakarta, the consulate in the city of Surabaya and all other American government facilities would be closed. They also reaffirmed earlier warnings that the threat of terrorism in Indonesia "remains high," but did not elaborate on what led to the closings.

Moscow

Electricity outage hits capital, nearby area

Electricity outages crippled large sections of the Russian capital and nearby regions Wednesday, forcing hospitals to resort to emergency power and stranding thousands of commuters in stuffy subways during an unseasonable heat wave.

The outages, which began with an explosion and fire at a 40-year-old substation, underlined the poor condition of much of Russia's infrastructure, even in the prosperous capital region.

"We primarily believe that the main reason is that the equipment is worn out," said Magarita Nagoga, a Unified Electricity Systems spokeswoman, noting that the substation was built in 1963.

No disorder was reported and most of the affected people appeared to take the inconvenience with stoic resignation, despite unusually warm temperatures that reached near 85 degrees for a third day.

"We've lived through hunger. We've lived through cold. We've lived through the Soviet Union," said a 56-year-old man who identified himself only as Alexander. "This is all small change compared to what we've been through."

Azerbaijan

Officials open part of new oil pipeline

With speeches and a letter from President Bush, officials Wednesday opened the first section of a 1,100-mile pipeline that will carry Caspian Sea oil to Western markets, a project seen as an economic and political boon for the troubled Caucasus region.

The $3.2 billion U.S.-backed project also realizes several crucial goals for Washington, including reducing dependence on Middle Eastern oil and the need to use Russian pipelines to ship oil westward.

The presidents of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Turkey were on hand for the ceremony at the Sangachal oil terminal, about 25 miles south of Azerbaijan's capital, Baku.

The underground pipeline passes through Georgia and Turkey, ending at the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. It avoids going through Russia, Armenia, Iran, Iraq and Syria on its way to the Mediterranean.

The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline has a capacity of 1 million barrels per day. It is the first direct oil link between the landlocked Caspian, which is thought to contain the world's third-largest oil and gas reserves, to the Mediterranean.

Canada

Accused serial killer faces 12 new charges

A pig farmer alleged to be Canada's worst serial killer was charged Wednesday with 12 new counts of first-degree murder as part of a probe into the disappearances of more than 60 women, mainly prostitutes who vanished from a seedy downtown neighborhood in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The new charges come on top of the 15 murder charges that Robert Pickton already faces. The 55-year-old suspect lived with his brother and sister on a farm where the remains of at least 31 women have been found. He is expected to stand trial in the fall.

Pickton has been in custody since his arrest Feb. 7, 2002.

Geneva

Iran renews promise on nuclear program

Officials negotiating Iran's nuclear future left the table in an upbeat mood Wednesday, with Tehran renewing its vow to refrain from developing nuclear weapons and signaling it will pursue talks with Europe toward a final agreement on its atomic program.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and other key European ministers met for three hours with Iranian negotiators under an implied threat that Tehran could be brought before the U.N. Security Council to face possible international sanctions over its suspected nuclear activities.

After the meeting, Straw said Iran had "reaffirmed its commitment not to seek to develop nuclear weapons. The freeze of the enrichment program will continue until an agreement is reached."

Iran also agreed to more talks this summer.

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