- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 25, 2009

RUSSIA

Talks start with U.S. to cut nuke stockpiles

ROME | U.S. and Russian negotiators emerged optimistic Friday after talks aimed at creating a new treaty to reduce their nuclear weapon stockpiles.

The goal is to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, before it expires in December. The deal capped the number of warheads and reduced ways of delivering them. Both sides have said they are ready for further cuts.

Friday’s one-day meeting focused on procedural issues, setting the agenda for further discussions. More meetings will take place in Washington and Moscow in the next two months ahead of President Obama’s first visit to Russia in July.

PARAGUAY

President sorry for paternity flap

ASUNCION | President Fernando Lugo asked for forgiveness Friday for a paternity scandal in which three women claim the former Roman Catholic bishop fathered their children.

The claims against Mr. Lugo less than a year into his presidency have embarrassed the government and put the opposition on the attack.

Mr. Lugo acknowledges fathering one of the three children in question — a 2-year-old boy born to a former parishioner — but has not said whether the other two are his children.

“I am a human being, and therefore nothing is foreign to me,” Mr. Lugo said to reporters. “Asking forgiveness for these circumstances, I want to stress that my version will always be the truth.”

MADAGASCAR

2 killed, 6 injured in street battles

ANTANANARIVO | Police and supporters of Madagascar’s ousted president clashed in running street battles Friday, leaving two people dead and six injured, officials said.

One of the dead, a woman, was hit by a stray bullet fired as police tried to break up a demonstration by supporters of Marc Ravalomanana, hospital officials said.

Military-backed President Andry Rajoelina banned demonstrations Tuesday, a day after a policeman was killed. Thirty-six people were injured Thursday in clashes between security forces and demonstrators.

Mr. Ravalomanana was forced to stand down and flee the country in March after months of street protests by Mr. Rajoelina. He insists he is still the legitimate president and continues to have international recognition.

RUSSIA

President fires military spy chief

MOSCOW | Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday dismissed the country’s military intelligence chief, a veteran who was reportedly opposed to Kremlin plans for sweeping military reform.

Mr. Medvedev signed a decree relieving Gen. Valentin Korabelnikov of his post as director of the GRU, a Kremlin statement said. The GRU, known by its Russian-language acronym, is Russia’s largest spy agency and has a dense global network of agents.

Gen. Korabelnikov, 63, had held the position since 1997. He was replaced by Lt. Gen. Alexander Shlyakturov, a first deputy in the organization.

The Kremlin gave no explanation for the dismissal, but analysts said Gen. Korabelnikov was seen as an obstacle to Kremlin plans to modernize Russia’s armed forces.

IRAQ

EU parliament opposes deportation

BRUSSELS | The European Parliament appealed to Iraq on Friday not to deport members of an Iranian opposition group to Iran.

In a resolution, the EU assembly called on Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki “to ensure that no action is taken” that violates the rights of 3,500 residents in a camp north of Baghdad.

Iraq’s government wants the group, known as the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, out of the country to improve ties with Tehran. The group is considered a terrorist organization by Iran.

The resolution, which was backed by all political groups in the parliament without a vote, said Iranian exiles in Iraq should be allowed to stay because they face possible abuse or torture in Iran.

THAILAND

Thaksin backers urge fresh protest

BANGKOK | Supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who rioted in Bangkok last week, Friday called for a new protest rally just hours after Thailand’s current leader lifted an emergency decree and said the country had returned to normal.

The call followed a special two-day parliamentary session that sought to close the political divide between supporters and opponents of Mr. Thaksin, whose 2006 ouster set off a series of demonstrations as the two rival groups have sought to bring their preferred leaders into power.

The legislative session was dominated by partisan bickering over who was to blame for recent political violence by protesters seeking the resignation of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva — who they claim came to power illegitimately — and did little to resolve the long-running crisis.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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