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World Scene

- - Tuesday, July 20, 2010

VIETNAM

ASEAN urges Burma to hold fair election

HANOI | Southeast Asian foreign ministers gave Burma's military-run government an "earful" while demanding that it hold free and fair elections — a rare stand by the cautious group often accused of overlooking rights abuses in member nations.

Foreign ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) ended their annual meeting Tuesday in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, where they tackled a diverse agenda — from setting up a European-style economic community by 2015 to bolstering ties with the West and regional powers China, Japan and India.

But at a dinner on the eve of the conference, Burma took center stage as diplomats vented their concerns about planned elections, which the junta has said will be held this year, without giving a date.

Many ministers told Burma that the Junta should hold "free, fair and inclusive" elections. Such straight talk is unusual, given ASEAN members' bedrock policy of not interfering in one another's domestic affairs.

AFGHANISTAN

Karzai reaffirms 2014 as goal

KABUL | Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday reaffirmed his commitment for Afghan police and soldiers to take charge of security nationwide by 2014 and urged his international backers to distribute more of their development aid through the government.

Mr. Karzai spoke at a one-day international conference on Afghanistan's future that comes at a critical juncture: NATO and Afghan forces have launched a major operation to drive the Taliban out of their strongholds, and the insurgents are pushing back.

Rockets fired at the Kabul airport Tuesday forced the diversion of a plane carrying U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Sweden's foreign minister.

CHINA

Oil spill threatens international waters

BEIJING | China rushed to keep an oil spill from reaching international waters Tuesday, while an environmental group tried to assess whether the country's largest reported spill was worse than has been disclosed.

Crude oil started pouring into the Yellow Sea off a busy northeastern port after a pipeline exploded late last week, sparking a massive 15-hour fire. The government said the slick has spread across a 70-square-mile stretch of ocean.

Images of 100-foot-high flames shooting up near part of China's strategic oil reserves drew the immediate attention of President Hu Jintao and other top leaders.

SPAIN

Lawmakers reject ban on burqas

MADRID | Spain's parliament on Tuesday rejected a proposal to ban women from wearing in public places Islamic veils that reveal only the eyes.

However, the socialist government has said it favors a ban on wearing burqas in government buildings in an upcoming bill on religious issues to be debated after parliament's summer break.

After a lower-chamber debate, 183 lawmakers opposed the ban, 162 voted for it and two abstained.

GUINEA

Presidential vote will go to runoff

CONAKRY | Guinea's top court announced final results from last month's presidential election and confirmed that the top two finishers will face each other in a runoff.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Mamadou Sima Sylla said Tuesday that former Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo garnered nearly 44 percent of the vote, short of the simple majority needed to avoid a second round.

Longtime opposition politician Alpha Conde won about 18 percent, while another former prime minister, Sidya Toure, came in third place, with close to 13 percent of the vote.

The election has been praised as the first free vote in Guinea's dictator-plagued history. No date for the second round has been confirmed.

From wire dispatches and staff reports