- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 2, 2009

NORTH KOREA

Ship under watch changes course

SEOUL | A North Korean ship monitored for more than a week by the U.S. Navy has changed course and is heading back the way it came, U.S. officials said, as Pyongyang warned Wednesday that it would take military action if anyone attempts to search its vessels.

The Kang Nam 1 - originally thought to be bound for Myanmar with suspicious cargo on board, possibly illicit weapons - turned around and headed back north on Sunday, two U.S. officials said on the condition of anonymity.

The U.S. officials, speaking in Washington on Tuesday, said they did not know what prompted the ship to change course or where it was going. It was about 250 miles south of Hong Kong on Tuesday and heading north, one official said.

IRAN

Tehran releases 2 embassy workers

TEHRAN | Iran has freed two more Iranian employees at the British Embassy in Tehran, the British government said Wednesday, out of nine originally held on accusations of involvement in postelection unrest in the Islamic state.

An embassy source said two Iranian staff members remained in detention, but the Foreign Office in London declined to confirm it.

“Two of our staff have been released over the last two days,” the Foreign Office said. “We are also seeking confirmation following Iranian reports that a further member of staff has been released today.”

Iran’s state Press TV said earlier that only one person remains in detention.

Meanwhile, in boldly worded statements posted on their Web sites, former President Mohammad Khatami accused Iran’s leadership of a “velvet coup against the people and democracy,” and presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi said the government’s crackdown on demonstrators was “tantamount to a coup.”

RUSSIA

Casinos closed, forced to relocate

MOSCOW | Thousands of casinos, slot-machine parlors and betting halls across Russia shut down Wednesday in compliance with sweeping new restrictions that require all gambling business to relocate to four remote regions of the country.

The law, which went into effect at midnight Wednesday, was estimated to put more than 400,000 people out of work as Russia’s economic crisis is deepening and unemployment is rising.

Russian TV said more than 40,000 workers were affected in Moscow alone - at 30 major casinos and some 500 smaller-scale gaming halls and slot-machine parlors. Russian news agencies reported that Moscow police were checking gambling halls across the capital to make sure they were closing.

The law, passed three years ago at then-President Vladimir Putin’s initiative, confines gambling to four special zones in far-flung regions of Russia - most thousands of miles away from Moscow.

CROATIA

Leader resigns, hints at EU woes

ZAGREB | Croatia’s Prime Minister Ivo Sanader resigned his office and quit politics Wednesday, hinting at frustration with his country’s delayed European Union membership bid as a reason for the shock announcement.

“I have decided to withdraw from active politics and will not run as a candidate for Croatian president” in elections due this year, Mr. Sanader told a hastily arranged media conference.

Mr. Sanader, who has dominated Croatian politics for the past six years, said his party would propose that President Stipe Mesic appoint Deputy Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor as his successor.

His surprise move comes after the European Union stopped accession talks last week with Zagreb because of a border disagreement with neighboring Slovenia, which has blocked the EU process since December.

Asked whether his announcement was prompted by Croatia’s stalled EU bid, Mr. Sanader conceded that the issue had contributed to his decision.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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