- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 29, 2008

CUBA

Russian president visits Fidel Castro

HAVANA | Russia’s president met with ailing revolutionary icon Fidel Castro on Friday, winding up a visit aimed at freshening relations with his country’s old Cold War ally and raising Moscow’s profile across the rest of the Latin America.

Dmitry Medvedev spent hours talking and sightseeing with President Raul Castro before meeting privately with his 82-year-old older brother.

Mr. Medvedev and Raul Castro laid a wreath at a monument to Soviet soldiers who died while serving in Cuba in the early 1960s, a symbol of Cuba’s once-prominent part in the communist bloc and of the history of its ties to Russia.

Russian officials deny Mr. Medvedev’s four-nation trip is meant to provoke the United States, but the chat with Fidel Castro capped meetings with Washington’s staunchest opponents in the region. Details about the meeting with the older Castro were not immediately available.

AFGHANISTAN

Taliban ambush kills 13 troops

KABUL | Taliban insurgents killed 13 Afghan troops in an ambush of their convoy in northwestern Afghanistan, while NATO-led troops fired on insurgents inside Pakistan, officials said Friday.

More than 300 militants attacked the Afghan forces’ convoy, which was transporting 47 vehicles for their units in the Bala Murghab district of Badghis province late Thursday, a border police official said.

In a several-hour battle, 13 Afghan soldiers and policemen were killed, and 11 others were wounded, said Abdul Ghani Sabri, the deputy provincial governor. Seven Taliban fighters were also killed, he said. Sixteen other Afghan troops were captured by the militants.

NIGERIA

Ethnic clashes kill 20 in central town

JOS | Clashes between rival ethnic and religious groups in the central Nigerian city of Jos killed at least 20 people Friday, injured hundreds more and forced thousands from their homes, the Red Cross said.

Authorities imposed a nighttime curfew on the capital of the central-plateau state, and soldiers deployed on the streets after rival gangs burned churches, mosques and homes in a dispute triggered by a local election.

CHINA

Researcher executed on spying charges

BEIJING | Wo Weihan, a Chinese medical researcher and businessman, was executed Friday on charges of spying for Taiwan, his family said.

Ran Chen, who has Austrian citizenship, said her father’s execution by gunshot was confirmed at 5 p.m. via the Austrian Embassy in Beijing.

The family was hopeful he might be spared after they visited him at a Beijing court Thursday morning, their first meeting since he was detained almost four years ago, and were told later that a second visit had been approved.

Neither the family, nor Mr. Wo had received official notification about the execution, and so he did not leave any final words with his relatives, the family said.

Mr. Wo was sentenced to death by the Beijing court in May 2007, and his final appeal was denied on Feb. 29. Human rights groups and diplomats from the EU, Austria and the United States had appealed to China on his behalf, contending that he did not receive a fair trial and was given an overly harsh sentence.

SOMALIA

Ethiopia to pull out by end of year

MOGADISHU | Ethiopia announced Friday that it is pulling its forces from Somalia by year’s end, leaving the ravaged capital vulnerable to the Islamic militants who have seized nearly all of the country.

The decision ends the unpopular two-year presence of the key U.S. ally much as it began - with the militants in near-total control of a failed state with a worsening humanitarian crisis.

Ethiopia has sent thousands of troops here since early 2007, when it launched a U.S.-backed operation that drove the militants from Mogadishu after six months in power.

FRANCE

Sarkozy voodoo doll can remain on sale

PARIS | A doll representing French President Nicolas Sarkozy and an accompanying “voodoo manual” with directions for sticking pins into the figurine can remain on sale after a ruling from an appeals court Friday.

The doll, which has been on sale since Oct. 9, is adorned with a choice of Mr. Sarkozy’s best-known remarks. The court ruled that the doll and the accompanying volume entitled “Nicolas Sarkozy, the voodoo manual” constituted an “offense against the personal dignity” of Mr. Sarkozy. But it said it would be “disproportionate and harmful to liberty of expression” to ban their sale outright. Instead, it said that the doll may be sold provided it carries a notice of the judgment attached.

SPAIN

Franco stripped of mayor title

MADRID | Former dictator Gen. Francisco Franco, who ruled Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975, was posthumously stripped of his title as honorary mayor Thursday by the town where he was born.

The town council of Ferrol, in the northwest Spanish region of Galicia, took the vote after a motion by the left-wing Galician party, the Galician Nationalist Bloc, a council spokeswoman said.

Many Spaniards are still divided about the rights and wrongs of the country’s 1936-1939 civil war and the subsequent Franco dictatorship. Statues of Franco and street names commemorating him have gradually disappeared from Spanish towns during three decades of democracy.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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