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World Scene

- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 15, 2007

BRITAIN

Special ties with U.S. cooling, official hints

LONDON — Britain's "special relationship" with the United States could be cooling, as a senior government official said that new Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Bush would not be "joined at the hip."

Mark Malloch Brown, a Foreign Office minister and former deputy secretary-general of the United Nations, said in a Daily Telegraph interview published yesterday that Britain needs a more "impartial" foreign policy.

"You need to build coalitions which are lateral, which go beyond the bilateral blinkers of the normal partners," Mr. Malloch Brown said.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair's close relationship with Mr. Bush caused tension across Britain. Mr. Blair was sharply criticized for eagerly joining the U.S.-led Iraq war.

On Friday, British newspapers suggested a speech in Washington by International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander subtly critiqued Mr. Bush's policies.

WEST BANK

Abbas installs new government

RAMALLAH — President Mahmoud Abbas consolidated his control of the West Bank yesterday, installing an interim government of moderates to lead indefinitely.

While Israel considered ways to support the West Bank leadership, the militant Islamic Hamas — in control of the Gaza Strip — called a special session of the Palestinian parliament for today to challenge the new government.

The latest power play followed Hamas' violent takeover of Gaza last month, which led to the dissolution of the power-sharing coalition between Hamas and Mr. Abbas' Fatah movement.

The emergency Cabinet's one-month term expired Friday. Mr. Abbas immediately replaced it yesterday with an indefinite interim Cabinet, to be led by Prime Minister Salem Fayyad.

LEBANON

Feuding factions meet outside Paris

PARIS — Lebanon's rival parties met in a French chateau yesterday for unusual and long-awaited talks meant to ease a political and sectarian crisis threatening to rip apart their country.

The closed meetings, organized by France with U.S. and Iranian approval, were not expected to break the political deadlock between the Western-backed prime minister and the Hezbollah-led opposition, but participants applauded the talks.

The weekend gatherings at La Celle Saint Cloud, west of Paris, mark the first meeting of the 14 parties since a November conference failed to resolve the tensions. Since then, the country's worst political crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war has only deepened.

AFGHANISTAN

Canadians, Afghans kill 15 Taliban

SANGSAR — Canadian troops drove Taliban insurgents into an Afghan army ambush yesterday and then called in air strikes to hit the fleeing militants, killing at least 15, the Canadian army commander said.

The Canadian troops moved in under cover of darkness through grape, poppy and marijuana fields to a suspected Taliban compound in the village of Sangsar, near Kandahar, where fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar once lived and preached at the local mosque.

LIBYA

Debt to be forgiven in AIDS-case deal

TRIPOLI — Libyan debt dating back to the Cold War would be forgiven under a proposal to compensate families whose children were purportedly infected with AIDS by six foreign medics, a victims' advocate said yesterday.

Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor have been sentenced to death in the case, and Libyan officials have said a settlement could pave the way for their release.

Idriss Lagha, head of the Association for the Families of HIV-Infected Children, said a settlement was being finalized involving the transfer of money to a fund through the remission of debt to Bulgaria and several other Eastern European countries.

The son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi told a French newspaper yesterday that $400 million in compensation would be paid to the families.

JAPAN

Typhoon hits, injuring 34

TOKYO — A powerful typhoon raced up the Japanese archipelago yesterday, injuring at least 34 persons, cutting power and snarling transportation, officials and news reports said.

Typhoon Man-Yi clocked sustained wind speeds of up to 100 mph and gusts of up to 133 mph as it approached Makurazaki city on the southern tip of the southern main island of Kyushu, according to the meteorological agency.

The typhoon was moving north at 18.6 miles per hour early yesterday and was forecast to move close to Tokyo today. It wasn't clear whether Tokyo would take a direct hit.

BOLIVIA

False plaits cost beauty queen title

LA PAZ — The winner of a Bolivian beauty contest for indigenous women was stripped of her title moments after her coronation when judges noticed she was wearing false plaits, organizers said yesterday.

The Miss Cholita Pacena pageant, held in the Andean city of La Paz late Friday, seeks to instill pride in indigenous women who choose to wear the traditional dress of wide skirt, bowler hat and long plaited hair.

But doubts over whether the winner was a genuine Cholita Pacena — the name for Indian women from La Paz — led judges to strip her of her victor's sash and call for a rerun.

NIGERIA

Man kills self after failing to learn Koran

LAGOS — A 25-year-old Nigerian man has killed himself by dousing himself in gasoline and lighting it after failing to learn the Koran by heart after eight years of devoted study, police said yesterday.

The man, who was not named, set himself on fire in his bedroom in the village of Mamawa in northwestern Nigeria and died in a hospital from his burns, Kebbi state police said.

Around half of Nigeria's 135 million people are Muslims, mostly in the north of the West African country.

From wire dispatches and staff reports