- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 29, 2004

SAUDI ARABIA

Control tightened on charities abroad

RIYADH — Saudi Arabia said yesterday it was establishing a new aid agency to take over the kingdom’s entire overseas relief and charity work and end suspicions that Saudi donations are channeled to Muslim militants.

A royal decree said the National Saudi Society for Relief and Charitable Works Abroad would be run by experienced Saudis of “integrity and good reputation” and would carry out “all international aid and charitable work abroad.”

The decree, published by the state Saudi Press Agency, also said the government was setting up clear rules to protect Saudi charity work abroad “from any suspicions or misrepresentations.”

THAILAND

Bird-flu costs could exceed $500 million

BANGKOK — The bird-flu crisis engulfing Asia will cost the region at least $500 million, and the bulk of that will be borne by individual countries, experts at a U.N.-backed conference said yesterday.

Bernard Vallat, head of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), said the most expensive factor was a massive cull that so far has resulted in the slaughter of 100 million poultry to prevent the spread of the disease, which has hit 10 Asian nations, as well as parts of the United States and Canada.

PHILIPPINES

Crews search for 180 missing in ferry fire

MANILA — Rescue crews waited for a smoldering ferry to cool down so divers could thoroughly search the craft yesterday as the number of missing rose to 180.

Fire raced through the Superferry 14 on Friday shortly after it left Manila for central and southern islands, killing one person and injuring 12 others. Witnesses reported a powerful explosion that sparked an inferno.

Officials initially had reported that 100 passengers were missing, but authorities raised that count to 180 after a meeting with the ship’s owner, WG&A;, in which they realized some of the rescued had been counted twice, coast guard chief Vice Adm. Arthur Gosingan said.

MOROCCO

King visits earthquake victims

AL HOCEIMA — King Mohammed received an enthusiastic welcome yesterday from thousands of survivors of a devastating earthquake that has prompted deepening public anger over the authorities’ sluggish response.

The king went on a walkabout after spending 35 minutes chatting with staff and the injured at the hospital that bore the brunt of the emergency triggered by the quake.

A strong aftershock rattled the town during the king’s visit, but there were no reports of damage or casualties from the latest tremor, which measured 4.0 on the Richter scale.

The official death toll in the disaster rose to 572 after a baby girl succumbed to head injuries.

LIBYA

African leaders agree on defense

SIRTE — African leaders signed a sweeping defense and security agreement yesterday that allows the fledgling African Union to send forces to intervene in civil wars, international conflicts and coup attempts across the continent.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi also said his country decided to dismantle its atomic program to avoid the dangers it might bring.

“The nuclear-arms race is a crazy and destructive policy for economy and life,” Mr. Gadhafi said at the closing session of the African Union summit. “Any national state that will adopt these policies cannot protect herself. On the contrary, it would expose itself to danger.”

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