- The Washington Times - Friday, April 21, 2006

RUSSIA

Moscow steels against Iran sanctions

TEHRAN — Hardening its opposition to sanctions against Iran, Russia said yesterday that the U.N. Security Council should consider such measures only if it had proof the Islamic republic was trying to build nuclear weapons.

The council is awaiting a report to be released Friday from the Vienna, Austria-based International Atomic Energy Agency on whether Tehran is meeting its demands for a halt to uranium enrichment and answers to queries about its nuclear program.

Russia made clear it would not view such noncompliance on its own as warranting punitive steps against Tehran. It previously said only that it doubted sanctions would work.

HAITI

Turnout slow for runoff vote

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Polling stations were nearly empty yesterday in a crucial legislative runoff intended to give this impoverished Caribbean nation its first popularly elected government since a revolt ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide two years ago.

The absence of lines and apparent public enthusiasm for the election was in sharp contrast to the presidential vote in February that returned former President Rene Preval to power.

Scattered violence forced police to shut down a few voting sites long before polls officially closed at 4 p.m.

AFGHANISTAN

Terrorist escapee targets Saudi Arabia

PARIS — A suspected senior al Qaeda operative who escaped from a U.S. air base in Afghanistan in July called on members yesterday in a video statement to move to fight in Saudi Arabia, predicting they soon would overcome U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“You must have a precise program in mind: We will soon conquer America in Afghanistan and Iraq. We must then head directly towards the peninsula of [Saudi Arabia],” Saudi Mohammad al-Qahtani said in the video statement released on the Internet.

Al-Qahtani was one of four al Qaeda members who escaped from the U.S. Bagram air base in July.

ROMANIA

Dike breached to ease flooding

BUCHAREST — Romania breached a major dike to protect low-lying villages in the Danube delta, and Hungary evacuated thousands of people as swollen rivers spread more havoc across Eastern Europe yesterday.

Almost 8,000 people have fled their homes in the Balkans. Further north in Hungary, authorities evacuated 4,500 more people from three towns near the confluence of the Tisza and Koros rivers as the latter threatened to burst its banks.

Authorities in Romania, the worst-hit country, tore a 124-foot gap in a dike on its coast to let Danube waters — swollen by heavy rains and melting snow — flow into the Black Sea and ease pressure on hundreds of people living in nearby villages.

ITALY

Baby bonus turns into boo-boo

ROME — It all started with a pre-election letter by Italy’s prime minister to more than 600,000 newborns.

“Best wishes for your arrival, do you know that the budget has put aside 1,000 euros for you? Big Kiss. Silvio Berlusconi,” read the letter telling the parents of babies born last year how to receive a “baby bonus” from the state worth about $1,250.

Trouble is, the letter was sent in January to all families with a newborn, including immigrants, even though the cash bonus was meant only for Italian babies.

The Economy Ministry is now asking non-Italians to pay it back.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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