- - Tuesday, July 6, 2010

UNITED KINGDOM

Judge to lead inquiry into torture claims

LONDON | Britain will hold a judge-led inquiry into charges that its spies were complicit in the torture of terrorism suspects held by the U.S. and other allies.

The government also announced Tuesday it will pay compensation to detainees found to have been mistreated in the global pursuit of terrorists after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The probe, by a three-member panel headed by retired Judge Peter Gibson, could complicate intelligence sharing with Washington.

It follows civil cases brought against the government by 12 ex-detainees who claim British intelligence agents colluded in their mistreatment in Pakistan, Morocco and elsewhere.

SRI LANKA

Protesters lay siege to U.N. compound

COLOMBO | Hundreds of protesters, led by a government minister, laid siege to the U.N. compound in Colombo on Tuesday, refusing to let workers out in an effort to force the world body to cancel its investigation of alleged abuses committed during Sri Lanka’s civil war.

Police tried to break up the protest in the evening and escorted some of the trapped workers out of the compound, but quickly pulled back after Housing Minister Wimal Weerawansa — who led the protest — ordered them to stop, leaving some U.N. staff trapped inside.

Later, four Westerners left the building after the country’s foreign secretary, Romesh Jayasinghe, who was apparently negotiating with the protesters, entered and left himself in.

GERMANY

Officials up health care premiums

BERLIN | Faced with a ballooning deficit in Germany’s health care system, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government decided Tuesday to raise premiums and cut into the profits of doctors, dentists, hospitals and pharmaceutical manufacturers.

The decision comes after months of wrangling within Mrs. Merkel’s coalition over a fundamental overhaul of the system and after a series of political blows to the chancellor and plummeting support in the polls.

MEXICO

Town evacuated amid fears over dam

NUEVO LAREDO | About 18,000 people were evacuated Tuesday from a town in northern Mexico where authorities fear a dam will overflow in the wake of Hurricane Alex.

Evacuees were taken to shelters in nearby towns and cities, Ciudad Anahuac Mayor Santos Garza Garcia said.

SUDAN

U.N. official: Stop blocking Darfur aid

KHARTOUM | Sudan’s government and rebels must stop blocking missions by aid workers and peacekeepers in Darfur or risk breaking international law, the head of the territory’s peacekeeping mission said on Tuesday.

Ibrahim Gambari, head of the joint U.N./African Union UNAMID force, told journalists that insurgents and government forces had prevented his mission from entering areas hit by a resurgence of violence over the past two months.

“We are demanding the lifting of restrictions on UNAMID and on the humanitarian community,” he said. “Persistent restriction of such movements is a violation of international humanitarian law.”

CANADA

Man guilty of trying to sell nuke material

OTTAWA | A court found a Toronto man guilty on Tuesday of attempting to export nuclear-related materials to Iran in violation of sanctions.

Mahmoud Yadegari, 36, was convicted in the Ontario Court of Justice of nine criminal and customs charges for attempting last year to ship pressure transducers to Iran via Dubai.

The items, manufactured in the U.S., can be used in nuclear power plants, but also are required to produce nuclear weapons. They are subject to a U.N. embargo on nuclear exports to Iran and are on Canada’s export-control list.

Yadegari was arrested in April 2009 for failing to obtain required permits to export the so-called “dual use” items the month before.

He faces up to a maximum of 10 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000 for each infraction. He is to be sentenced on July 29.

UNITED KINGDOM

Gay bishop for Church of England?

LONDON | The Church of England may be on the verge of promoting a gay priest to bishop, a step that would widen the split over sexuality in the global Anglican Communion.

If that happens, it would appear to be a significant turnaround for Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the Church of England and the world’s Anglicans, who recently imposed sanctions on the U.S. Episcopal Church for electing a lesbian bishop.

According to newspaper reports, Archbishop Williams is prepared to back the elevation of the Very Rev. Jeffrey John, who withdrew seven years ago from an appointment as a suffragan (assistant) bishop in the face of a heated controversy about his homosexuality.

Archbishop Williams’ office would not comment.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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