- The Washington Times - Monday, January 23, 2006

GEORGIA

Blasts on pipelines cut gas supplies

TBILISI — Explosions blamed on sabotage hit pipelines running through southern Russia early yesterday, cutting the supply of natural gas to the Caucasus countries of Georgia and Armenia during a cold snap.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said the blasts were aimed at destabilizing the mountain country, but it was not clear whether they were caused by sabotage or accidents.

Georgia and Armenia tapped into reserves to keep gas flowing during subfreezing weather. There were no reports of deaths or widespread suffering in the two impoverished countries.

NIGERIA

Hope for hostages is lifted by photo

ABUJA — Officials raised hopes that four foreign hostages could soon be released after receiving a recent photograph of the oil workers during a meeting yesterday with a representative of the militants holding them.

One foreign diplomat said he had been informed after the talks that the hostages would be freed soon if the government promised no military reprisals against the kidnappers.

The photograph showed the hostages — an American, a Briton, a Bulgarian and a Honduran — in apparently good health and sporting beards, indicating it was taken recently, diplomats said.

VENEZUELA

Chavez foes march for new electoral body

CARACAS — Thousands of opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez marched in Caracas yesterday to demand that his government replace the nation’s electoral authority before a presidential vote in December.

Labor unions, pensioners and families snaked through wealthy eastern Caracas in one of the largest opposition rallies since the left-wing leader won a 2004 referendum.

IRAQ

Al-Sadr says militia will support Iran

TEHRAN — Firebrand Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has assured Iran that his Shi’ite Muslim militiamen will support Tehran if it comes under attack, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Although the United States and Israel have said they prefer diplomacy as a means to solve a dispute over Iran’s atomic program, they have not ruled out military options.

“If neighboring Islamic countries, including Iran, should come under attack, then the Mahdi Army will support them,” Sheik al-Sadr said on a visit to Tehran. His Mahdi Army militia rose up against U.S. forces in Iraq in 2004.

PORTUGAL

Rightist elected to be president

LISBON — Anibal Cavaco Silva, a center-right candidate, won Portugal’s presidential election yesterday in a blow to the country’s ruling Socialist Party, which is under pressure because of a stagnant economy.

Mr. Cavaco Silva, a former prime minister who has vowed to tackle economic woes in Western Europe’s poorest country, had 50.78 percent of the vote with 98 percent of polling stations reporting.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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