- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 14, 2007

VENEZUELA

Chavez threatens food nationalization

CARACAS — Venezuela’s leftist president, Hugo Chavez, yesterday threatened to nationalize food distribution industries, saying they were charging artificially high prices for basic foods.

“I have sent messages to producers, slaughterhouse intermediaries, warehouses and shops. But if they insist on violating the interests of the people, the constitution and laws, I will take away the warehouses, the shops. I will take away the supermarkets, and I’ll nationalize them,” Mr. Chavez warned in an address.

In recent months, basic goods such as sugar, pasteurized whole milk and meat have been in short supply in supermarkets. Producers say price controls have left them unable to make their businesses profitable.

TURKMENISTAN

New leader sworn in, pledges continuity

ASHGABAT — Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov became gas-rich Turkmenistan’s new president yesterday, pledging to follow a path set by late authoritarian leader Saparmurat Niyazov and to respect existing energy contracts.

As acting leader in a one-party state, Mr. Berdymukhamedov had always been the clear favorite to win Sunday’s election, but the authorities delayed announcing his 89 percent poll victory until minutes before the swearing in ceremony.

Russian President Vladimir Putin by telephone congratulated Mr. Berdymukhamedov on his win. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher joined heads of state from Ukraine, Georgia, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan for the ceremony.

BRITAIN

Charges dismissed against 5 soldiers

LONDON — A judge dismissed charges yesterday against five British soldiers accused of mistreating Iraqi civilian detainees but said the court-martial would continue against two other servicemen.

The trial has tarnished the image of Britain’s military because it marked the first time a British soldier pleaded guilty to a war crime under international law. Cpl. Donald Payne, 35, admitted he inhumanely treated Iraqi civilians in September. He has not yet been sentenced on the charge.

The nine Iraqi detainees, who had been taken into custody as suspected insurgents, purportedly were handcuffed, hooded, beaten, held in stress positions and deprived of sleep for about two days in extreme heat at a British army barracks near the southern Iraqi city of Basra in September 2003. The prosecution said one of the men died after being restrained by soldiers when he tried to escape.

SERBIA

Kosovo police chief fired after deaths

PRISTINA — The United Nations administrator of Serbia’s breakaway Kosovo province, Joachim Ruecker, fired the U.N. police chief yesterday following the deaths of two Albanian demonstrators in a weekend protest rally.

The clashes between police and ethnic Albanian protesters marked the worst violence since March 2004 and underscored Western fears of widespread civil unrest if a decision on the Albanian majority’s demand for independence does not come soon.

Police Commissioner Stephen Curtis, a Briton, headed the 1,800-strong international police force in Kosovo.

BRAZIL

Samba leader slain ahead of Carnival

RIO DE JANEIRO — A leader of one of Rio’s premier samba parade groups was fatally shot early yesterday, just days before the city’s famed Carnival celebrations.

Guaracy Paes Falcao, 42, vice president of the samba school Salgueiro, was killed in his car by unidentified gunmen before dawn while leaving the group’s headquarters with a woman, who was also fatally shot, police said.

The killings came a day after police entered a Rio slum and clashed with drug gangs in shootouts that killed six persons, including at least four suspected gang members.

Also yesterday, more than 600 people attended a Mass for a 6-year-old boy who was dragged to death by thieves trying to steal his mother’s car. Police have arrested five suspects, one of whom is 16.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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