- - Monday, June 28, 2010

CHINA

China, Taiwan to sign landmark trade pact

BEIJING | Longtime rivals China and Taiwan were set to sign a broad trade pact Tuesday to draw their economies closer, which Beijing hopes could lead to a political accommodation six decades after they split amid civil war.

For its part, Taiwan hopes better terms of trade under the pact will keep the island from being economically marginalized as China’s global clout grows. Beijing is granting Taiwanese products quick tariff reductions to show the benefits of closer ties.

The pact will do away with tariffs on hundreds of products traded across the strait and allow Taiwanese firms access to 11 service sectors on the mainland, including banking, accounting, insurance and hospitals. It should boost bilateral trade already totaling about $110 billion a year: some $80 billion in goods flowing to China, and $30 billion to Taiwan.

IRAN

Iran: No nuke talks for two months

TEHRAN | Iran will not hold talks with the West over its nuclear program until late August to “punish” world powers for imposing tougher sanctions against the country, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday.

He also vowed that Iran will retaliate should its ships be searched over suspicions that the cargo may violate the new sanctions approved by the U.N. Security Council earlier this month.

“We call this bad behavior,” the president said at a news conference, adding that talks on the issue would be postponed until the end of the Iranian month of Mordad, which would be about Aug. 20. “This is a fine to punish them a bit so that they learn the custom of dialogue with our nation.”

The Iranian leader also set three conditions for an eventual resumption of talks, saying countries should make clear whether they support Israel’s atomic arsenal, the Nonproliferation Treaty and friendship with Iran.

FIJI

Regime imposes new media controls

SUVA | Fiji’s leading newspaper, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., has three months to change its ownership structure so 90 percent of its shareholders are Fijian citizens or it will be forced to close, the military-led regime said Monday.

Armed forces chief Commodore Frank Bainimarama launched a media crackdown after seizing power in a December 2006 coup. Foreign reporters and media managers have been expelled, and dozens of local journalists arrested and interrogated. Military censors operate in newsrooms on a daily basis.

Announcing the latest measures Monday, Fiji Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum mentioned by name the Fiji Times, the country’s oldest and largest newspaper owned for the past 23 years by News Ltd. — the Australian branch of Mr. Murdoch’s New York-based News Corp.

VATICAN CITY

Vatican admonishes Austrian cardinal

VATICAN CITY | The Vatican on Monday admonished a leading cardinal for having publicly criticized the former Vatican No. 2 for his handling of clerical-abuse cases.

In a remarkable statement, the Vatican said only the pope can make such accusations against a cardinal, not another “prince of the church.”

In April, Vienna’s archbishop, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, accused the former Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, of blocking a probe into a sex-abuse scandal that rocked Austria’s Catholic Church 15 years ago.

GAZA STRIP

Masked vandals trash U.N. summer camp

GAZA CITY | Masked men trashed a U.N. summer camp Monday, tying up guards and slashing tents and an inflatable pool in the second such attack blamed on suspected extremists in just over a month.

Rival day camps by the U.N. and Gaza’s Islamic militant Hamas rulers compete for the hearts of the next generation, the roughly 700,000 children under 15 who make up nearly half of the Gaza Strip’s population.

Hamas camps teach an anti-Israeli doctrine and military-style marching, along with horseback riding, swimming and Islam. U.N. camps try to instill hope in a better future, a message wrapped in fun and games.

The U.N. says it hopes to help shield Gaza’s children from the lure of militancy, a task that’s getting harder in the impoverished territory.

SUDAN

Sudan to close border with Libya

KHARTOUM | Sudan will close its border crossings with Libya next month as it ramps up security on the frontier in response to banditry, the Interior Ministry said Monday.

Interior Minister Ibrahim Mahmud Hamid issued the order with the “aim of reorganizing” police along the border, according to a statement on the ministry’s website.

Libya’s border with Sudan passes through the troubled Darfur region, where the United Nations estimates 300,000 people have died in a war that started in 2003, when ethnic rebels revolted against the Arab-dominated government.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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