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Briefly

- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 30, 2007

PAKISTAN

Monsoon victims riot for aid

TURBAT — Hungry victims of monsoon-spawned floods in southwestern Pakistan rioted yesterday, protesting slow, meager aid reaching their marooned villages where many feared the receding waters would yield numerous bodies.

Police fired tear gas and shots into the air but failed to disperse a crowd of several thousand villagers who broke into and ransacked the mayor's office in this southwestern city, which is now ringed by floodwater.

SRI LANKA

U.S. seeks news on 'disappeared'

COLOMBO — The United States has voiced concern about the fate of 355 Sri Lankans who "disappeared" in recent months amid an escalation of the island's ethnic conflict, the government here said yesterday.

U.S. Ambassador Robert Blake presented the list of names of people whose whereabouts were unknown, the foreign ministry said. U.S. officials said the Sri Lankan government has responded to past expressions of concern about human rights.

But the Colombo government has come under mounting local and international criticism of its rights record in recent months.

KAZAKHSTAN

AIDS infections produce outrage

ASTANA — A court convicted 21 medical workers this week for their roles in infecting scores of children with the virus that causes AIDS, but gave only light sentences to higher-level officials.

Amid protest from relatives, the Shymkent district court gave suspended sentences to five senior health officials, including the district's chief medical officer.

Another 16 medical workers, including nurses and doctors in the city's hospital and clinics, were given prison sentences of up to five years.

The Central Asian nation has been shocked by the infections, which resulted from tainted injections and blood transfusions at local hospitals in the district.

AFGHANISTAN

Aid group warns on trade pact

KABUL — Afghanistan, seeking membership in the World Trade Organization by 2010, risks undermining efforts to rebuild its shattered economy unless it treads more cautiously, the international aid group Oxfam said this week.

In a major report, the group said that instead of opening new markets for Afghanistan's exports, WTO membership could herald a flood of cheap imports that will stifle attempts to resurrect the manufacturing sector.

Afghanistan's economy is in ruins following decades of conflict, and despite massive amounts of aid since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, the country remains one of the world's poorest.

NEPAL

Officials nix square snuggling

KATMANDU — Couples should stop cuddling and kissing near a revered square surrounded by palaces and temples in Nepal's capital because it shows a lack of respect for religion, a committee warned this week.

Durbar Square, a United Nations "world heritage site" and a popular destination for foreign backpackers, boasts a series of Hindu and Buddhist shrines that date back to the 16th century.

But the square, which is home to a young girl revered as a living goddess and was the seat of Nepal's kings until the 1960s, has also become a popular spot for lovebirds to gather in the evening.

From wire dispatches and staff reports