- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 20, 2008

PAKISTAN

U.S. suspected in missile strike

ISLAMABAD | The U.S. military apparently struck at Islamic militants outside Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt for the first time Wednesday, firing a missile that killed six suspected insurgents taking refuge away from the conflict zone along the Afghan border.

The United States has staged some 20 missile strikes and at least one commando assault inside Pakistan since August, a barrage seen as a sign of Washington’s frustration with the inability of its nuclear-armed ally to subdue militants blamed for rising attacks in Afghanistan.

All the previous attacks had come in semiautonomous tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. But Wednesday’s attack blew up a house in Indi Khel, a village in the Bannu district about 30 miles from the Afghan border and beyond the tribal region.

The identities of those killed were still being investigated, but a senior military officer said “the Americans are very confident” an al-Qaeda member identified as Abdullah Azam al-Saudi was among the victims. He did not elaborate.

UNITED NATIONS

Billions sought for humanitarian aid

GENEVA | The United Nations asked Wednesday for $7 billion to fund its humanitarian work around the world in 2009 - almost double last year’s appeal as a result of soaring food prices and crises in Africa, among other factors.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged donor nations and private groups to support urgent aid for 30 million people in 31 countries who need drinking water, emergency shelter, medicines and other basic necessities of life.

Aid agencies have to spend more money to buy food, and more people need food aid because they cannot afford it anymore, said Robert Smith, an official with the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Worsening humanitarian situations in countries such as Congo and Somalia - where an increasing number of people have suffered from droughts and violence this year - also contributed to the increase of the appeal, he said.

RUSSIA

Reporter murder trial closed to the press

MOSCOW | A Moscow court reversed itself Wednesday and barred the public and media from the trial of three men accused of killing journalist Anna Politkovskaya, a lawyer for her family said.

The decision was a blow for relatives and rights groups who hoped that public scrutiny would yield new information.

The Moscow District Military Court made the decision after jurors refused to enter the courtroom because they feared media coverage would bring them wide public attention, Politkovskaya family lawyer Karinna Moskalenko said.

Russian juries are not anonymous and the courtroom was filled with reporters, photographers andTV cameras.

Ms. Moskalenko said there had been no “real threats” against the 12 jurors - who were seated a day earlier.

BRITAIN

Sex may be illegal with captive hookers

LONDON | The British government announced plans Wednesday to make it illegal to pay for sex with women forced into prostitution — a measure that sex workers say will put more women at risk.

As part of the Home Office’s “name and shame” campaign, people who pay for sex with a prostitute “controlled for another person’s gain” could face criminal charges and a fine of $1,500.

The crime would be a “strict liability offense,” which means men would be held accountable even if they didn’t know a woman had been trafficked or was working for a pimp.

“What I disapprove of is women being exploited in this country, coerced, trafficked into the country, effectively treated as slaves,” Home Secretary Jacqui Smith told British Broadcasting Corp. radio on Wednesday.

Cari Mitchell, spokeswoman for the English Collective of Prostitutes, called the move a “dangerous moral crusade.”

AUSTRALIA

Relatives honor lost WWII sailors

SYDNEY | Tearful relatives of sailors lost in a World War II sea battle threw flowers into the ocean Wednesday as Australia marked the 67th anniversary of the sinking of the HMAS Sydney.

The sinking of the Sydney with its 645 men on Nov. 19, 1941, stunned Australia - it was one of the nation’s worst maritime losses - and the government banned all media from reporting the news for 12 days as it scrambled to explain what happened.

The wrecks of the Royal Australian Navy light cruiser and the German ship that sank it were discovered in March.

On the sea above the wreck site Wednesday, nearly 300 relatives of the lost men threw wreaths, tokens and plaques into the sea from aboard the HMAS Manoora, according to Cmdr. Paul Mandziy, the Manoora’s captain.

RUSSIA

Oil-for-food convict extradited to jail

MOSCOW | A Russian diplomat jailed in the United States in a case linked to the Iraqi oil-for-food program has been transferred home to serve out his sentence, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

A U.S. court last year sentenced Vladimir Kuznetsov to four years in prison for helping launder about $300,000 in bribes from firms seeking contracts with the United Nations. He once chaired a U.N. budget committee.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry praised the decision to transfer him home, a rare positive note in relations between Moscow and Washington that have been strained over Russia’s war in Georgia and U.S. plans for a missile-defense system in Europe.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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