- - Monday, December 13, 2010

RUSSIA

N. Korean holds meeting in Moscow

MOSCOW | North Korea’s foreign minister held rare talks in Russia on Monday amid a flurry of diplomatic attempts to ease tensions after Pyongyang’s deadly attack on a South Korean island last month.

Pak Ui-chun is on a visit to Russia until Wednesday and was in talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, on a number of issues, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

The meeting comes after the North’s Nov. 23 shelling of a South Korean island that left four dead, the first shelling of civilian areas in South Korea since the Korean War.

South Korea’s chief nuclear envoy also is expected to visit Russia for talks with his counterpart, Alexei Borodavkin, Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said. Wi Sung-lac will discuss the shelling and the North’s disclosure last month of a uranium-enrichment plant.

IRAN

Ahmadinejad fires foreign minister

TEHRAN | Iran’s president abruptly fired his foreign minister Monday and named the nuclear chief as acting top diplomat, the latest sign of a rift at the top levels of the Islamic theocracy as the country faces intense pressure from the West over its nuclear program.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave no explanation for the change in a brief statement on his website.

But the fired diplomat, Manouchehr Mottaki, is seen as close to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. And the president may be aiming to install a figure more personally loyal to himself as Tehran resumes critical talks with world powers over the nuclear program that has brought four rounds of U.N. sanctions on Iran.

The nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, is one of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s 12 vice presidents.

NETHERLANDS

Suspected serial molester arrested

AMSTERDAM | Amsterdam police called for the public to provide information on a suspected child-pornography ring Monday after a teacher was arrested on charges of molesting dozens of young children.

The 27-year-old suspect in the Amsterdam case worked as a substitute teacher for at least two preschools in the city and also offered baby-sitting services online in what is feared to be one of the worst cases of sexual abuse in the Netherlands, the city’s mayor said at a late-night news conference Sunday.

Eberhard van der Laan said more than 50 parents had been informed that the suspect arrested last week after a tip from U.S. authorities had either confessed to abusing their children or was thought to have done so.

UKRAINE

Chernobyl to open to tourists in 2011

KIEV | Want a better understanding of the world’s worst nuclear disaster? Come tour the Chernobyl nuclear-power plant.

Beginning next year, Ukraine plans to open up the sealed zone around the Chernobyl reactor to visitors who wish to learn more about the accident that occurred nearly a quarter of a century ago in April 1986, the Emergency Situations Ministry said Monday.

From wire dispatches and staff reports