- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 22, 2005

AZERBAIJAN

Protesters beaten back, dozens held

BAKU — Azeri protesters demanding free elections were beaten back yesterday by police, who arrested dozens as they broke up a banned rally in the oil-rich former Soviet republic on the Caspian Sea four days before the inauguration of a new pipeline.

Tension between the government and the opposition in the tightly controlled country has increased since an October 2003 election in which Ilham Aliev replaced his late father, Geidar Aliev, as president in a vote the opposition said was marred by fraud. A parliamentary vote is scheduled for November.

Officials had forbidden the opposition to protest, citing security concerns four days ahead of the visit of foreign leaders who will attend a ceremony marking the opening of Azerbaijan’s portion of the U.S.-backed Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline.

The violence broke out as groups of protesters tried to defy the ban and make their way to a central square in the capital, Baku, shouting “Freedom” and “Free elections.”

UZBEKISTAN

Crowd demands rebel leader’s release

KORASUV — Uzbeks in this border town demanded yesterday that authorities release a leader whose Islamic rebellion defied the authoritarian government of President Islam Karimov, a key American ally, as unrest smoldered in the former Soviet Republic.

Several hundred residents of Korasuv, a town of 20,000 on the border with Kyrgyzstan, held placards urging the government to free Bakhtiyor Rakhimov, a farmer-turned-rebel leader, and several of his associates who were rounded up when government troops reclaimed the town Thursday.

Hundreds of protesters were reported killed by government troops in the city of Andijan on May 13. Mr. Rakhimov’s followers claimed control of Korasuv last Saturday, inspired by riots about 20 miles away in Andijan.

VENEZUELA

Thousands demand extradition of Cuban

CARACAS — Thousands of Venezuelans demonstrated nationwide yesterday as the government demanded the extradition of a Cuban exile accused of plotting the 1976 bombing of a Cuban jet that killed 73 persons.

State-run television reported that thousands joined rallies at city plazas across the country to demand Washington turn over Luis Posada Carriles, now being held by U.S. immigration authorities.

Mr. Posada, who has denied wrongdoing, was being held without bond at a federal detention center in El Paso, Texas, while awaiting a hearing set for June 13.

CHILE

29 soldiers missing,16 dead in Andes

LOS ANGELES — Chilean soldiers yesterday searched the Andes mountains for 29 comrades lost when a blizzard struck during a training march, but their commander admitted that they almost certainly will be found dead.

The number of bodies found after Wednesday’s storm increased to 16, the army said. Meanwhile, 112 soldiers who survived the storm, including seven women, were flown by helicopter to Los Angeles, 400 miles south of the capital, Santiago, from the mountain shelter where they had sought refuge.

ITALY

Gays ‘marry’ near Vatican

ROME — Italian same-sex couples “married” symbolically in central Rome yesterday, a short walk from the Vatican that adamantly opposes such unions, in a bid to relax Italian laws.

Curious shoppers looked on as the ceremonies, celebrated by homosexual rights activists and sympathetic town councilors, took place against a backdrop of placards reading “Let’s free love from religious phobias.”

Italy is considered years away from the kind of law recently presented in Spain allowing homosexuals to ?marry.? But the country’s homosexual groups are lobbying for parliament to give same-sex unions legal status in areas such as pensions, taxes and competitions for state-sector jobs.

SINGAPORE

Indonesian twins survive separation

SINGAPORE — Two 15-month-old Indonesian twin girls joined at the waist and hip have been successfully separated after a 10-hour operation, doctors in Singapore said yesterday.

Anjeli and Anggi, who were born with three legs and shared intestines, are recovering after surgery was carried out in Singapore’s downtown Gleneagles Hospital.

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