- The Washington Times - Monday, September 24, 2007

SERBIA

Explosion kills one, injures seven

PRISTINA — One person was killed and seven injured by an explosion that tore through shops in the capital of Serbia’s breakaway Kosovo province early today, a police source said.

A Reuters witness described hearing a loud explosion, which scattered glass and debris from a dozen shops across the pavement running down Bill Clinton Boulevard.

It was not known what caused the explosion, during rising tension within Kosovo’s 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority over its stalled bid for independence from Serbia.

The territory has been run by the United Nations and patrolled by NATO since 1999, when NATO bombs drove out Serbian forces to halt atrocities against ethnic Albanians in a two-year war between Belgrade’s troops and separatist guerrillas.

Leaders of Serbia and Kosovo are due to hold direct negotiations on the territory’s fate at the United Nations in New York on Friday.

GERMANY

Dalai Lama’s quest backed by Merkel

BERLIN — Defying pressure from China, German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a meeting with the Dalai Lama yesterday, and gave support to the Buddhist leader’s quest for cultural autonomy for Tibet.

“The chancellor paid tribute to the Dalai Lama as a religious leader and assured him of support for his efforts to preserve the cultural identity of Tibet and for his peaceful quest for religious and cultural autonomy,” a spokesman said afterward.

AFGHANISTAN

Two Italian soldiers feared kidnapped

KABUL — Two Italian military personnel are thought to have been kidnapped in western Afghanistan, and police yesterday said they are searching for the pair and their two Afghan staff.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in New York that he had information about where the Italians were and would pass the information to Italian authorities.

The two Italians drove through a police checkpoint in Herat province on Saturday, and they have not had any contact with anyone since, said a police official in western Afghanistan.

NIGERIA

Oil delta rebels issue new threat

LAGOS — A Nigerian armed group threatened yesterday to resume attacks on oil facilities and kidnappings of foreigners, ending a four-month cease-fire.

“With effect from 12 midnight today … we will commence attacks on installations and abduction of expatriates,” the group said in an e-mail to news organizations.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta staged a string of bombings of Western oil facilities and abductions of foreign workers in the southern oil region from late 2005 to May this year, when it called a truce to allow for talks with the new government of President Umaru Yar’Adua.

SAUDI ARABIA

Petition asks king to let women drive

RIYADH — Female activists sent a petition to King Abdullah yesterday urging him to lift a ban on women driving in the ultraconservative kingdom.

The petition, sent as the Gulf nation wrapped up National Day celebrations, bore the signatures of more than 1,100 Saudi men and women, campaigner Fawzia al-Oyouni said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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