- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 3, 2009

NORTH KOREA

U.S. considering bilateral talks

The Obama administration signaled Wednesday that it might agree to bilateral talks with North Korea as an incentive for Pyongyang to return to six-country negotiations on its nuclear program.

In a statement announcing a trip to Northeast Asia by the U.S. envoy for talks with North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said that Mr. Bosworth will “discuss the role of bilateral talks with North Korea within the context of the six-party process.”

The envoy left Washington Wednesday and is expected to visit Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing. “His goal is to explore how best to convince North Korea that it must live up to its obligations under the September 2005 joint statement and take irreversible steps toward complete denuclearization,” Mr. Kelly said.

PAKISTAN

Terrorists wound religion minister

ISLAMABAD | Suspected militants opened fire on a vehicle carrying Pakistan’s religious-affairs minister Wednesday, wounding him and killing his driver in a brazen attack in the heart of the capital.

Hamid Saeed Kazmi had been critical of Muslim extremists blamed for scores of attacks in Pakistan over the past 2 1/2 years.

Fellow ministers said the Taliban was suspected in the shooting, which took place as police in Islamabad were on high alert amid fears of revenge attacks following the Aug. 5 killing of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in a missile strike.

The ambush in broad daylight raised fresh fears for security in Pakistan’s cities, in addition to the northwestern border areas where the military has battled al Qaeda-linked extremists.

GREECE

Terrorists target stock exchange

ATHENS | A van bomb exploded outside the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, injuring a woman and causing extensive damage to the building in what police said was a coordinated double bombing that also targeted a government building in the northern city of Thessaloniki.

Both attacks were preceded by anonymous warning calls to Greek media, but there was no claim of responsibility. Police said a Greek far-left militant group called Revolutionary Struggle, best-known for firing a rocket at the U.S. Embassy in Athens in 2007, was suspected in the stock exchange blast.

The stock exchange issued a statement saying trading would go ahead normally, “despite the huge damage the explosion caused to the building.”

The attack in Athens’ central Votanikos district blew out windows at the stock exchange and a neighboring car dealership, and damaged parked cars and trees, police said.

Greek left-wing militants have stepped up attacks following the fatal police shooting of an Athens teenager last December, which sparked the country’s worst rioting in decades.

TAIWAN

Former first lady convicted of perjury

TAIPEI | The wife and adult children of Taiwan’s former president were convicted of perjury and sentenced to prison for lying to investigators in a high-profile corruption case against the ex-leader.

The wider case against former President Chen Shui-bian tests the Taiwanese government’s resolve to crack down on corruption and the credibility of its justice system.

Mr. Chen, 58, is accused of embezzling $3.15 million during his 2000-2008 presidency from a special presidential fund, receiving bribes worth at least $9 million in connection with a government land deal, and laundering some of the money through Swiss bank accounts.

Mr. Chen has pleaded not guilty and claims the prosecution is politically motivated.

Wu Shu-chen, his wife, was convicted Tuesday of perjury after a Taipei court ruled she asked her children to lie during the investigation.

IRAQ

Police convicted in bank robbery

BAGHDAD | A Baghdad court convicted four members of Iraq’s security forces Wednesday of involvement in a bank robbery in the Iraqi capital that left eight bank guards dead and sentenced them to death.

A three-judge panel gave the men a month to appeal the swift sentence in a case that has the potential for political fallout after at least one of the suspects was linked to an Iraqi vice president.

Gunmen broke into the state-run Rafidain Bank at about 4 a.m. on July 28, killing three on-duty guards and five others on the premises who were either on a break or asleep, according to police investigators. About 5.6 billion Iraqi dinars ($4.8 million) was stolen.

Most of the money was later recovered in the office of a newspaper owned by Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, a senior member of Iraq’s largest Shi’ite party, investigators said.

RUSSIA

Stalin’s grandson sues newspaper

MOSCOW | A Russian court will later this month start hearing a defamation case brought against the opposition Novaya Gazeta newspaper by the grandson of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, the newspaper said Wednesday.

The hearing at Moscow’s Basmanny district court on Sept. 15, which follows two preliminary court sessions, promises to be a battleground over the reputation of Stalin as both sides amass information to support their case.

Yevgeny Dzhugashvili is suing the Novaya Gazeta and journalist Anatoly Yablokov over an article about Stalin’s crimes published earlier this year in a special issue devoted to the excesses of his rule.

The newspaper said Stalin was an accomplice in the crimes of Adolf Hitler at the start of World War II.

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