Police foil bomb plot targeting Sarkozy
ATHENS | Greek police foiled four attempted parcel-bomb attacks Monday, purportedly targeting French President Nicolas Sarkozy and three embassies in Athens, after one of the devices exploded at a delivery service, leaving a worker hospitalized with burns.
Motorcycle police later arrested two Greek men, aged 22 and 24, several hundred yards from the blast site in central Athens. Police said the men were carrying handguns and bullets in waist pouches, and one of them wore body armor, a wig and a baseball cap.
Parts of the city center were cordoned off for more than an hour around midday as the three unexploded bombs, found at a different delivery service and in the suspects’ backpacks, were defused in a series of controlled explosions.
Beyond Mr. Sarkozy, the targets were the Athens embassies of Mexico, the Netherlands and Belgium, police said. The return-address labels included the names of a senior government official, a Greek charity and a well-known Greek criminologist, police said.
Steel maker challenges state takeover
CARACAS | Venezuela’s largest privately owned steel producer vowed Monday to challenge President Hugo Chavez’s order to expropriate its assets even as soldiers arrived to oversee the takeover.
Sidetur’s board of directors issued a statement promising legal action to protect its “employees, clients, suppliers and shareholders.”
Mr. Chavez ordered the expropriation of Sidetur on Sunday, saying it is part of his strategy to transform Venezuela into a socialist state. He said the company has been selling products such as rebar at inflated prices on the domestic market, though the company said its prices have been frozen since 2006 despite rampant inflation in the overall economy.
The company statement said that under Venezuelan law, only a judge can order the takeover of a company and only after payment of an assessed price for the assets.
Ahmadinejad chided over subsidy plan
TEHRAN | Iran’s opposition leader said the country’s president would be unable to implement a plan to slash energy and food subsidies, cutbacks that specialists have argued will compound Iran’s economic troubles.
Mir Hossein Mousavi was quoted by a prominent opposition website as saying that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government has sidelined experts who would have been key to enacting the plan aimed at saving the government billions of dollars by bringing prices of key commodities more in line with international norms.
Mr. Mousavi also criticized the government for stationing police and security forces around the Iranian capital before the implementation of the subsidy cuts. He said the heavy security presence was intended to intimidate Iranians.
China conducts world’s biggest census
BEIJING | China kicked off a once-a-decade census Monday, a whirlwind 10-day head count that sees 6 million census takers scrutinize apartment blocks, scour migrant areas and scan rural villages to document massive demographic changes in the world’s most populous country.
And they aim to count every person.
The 2000 tally put China’s official population at 1.295 billion people, but missed migrant workers living in cities for less than six months. In the 10 years since, there has been an extensive shift in the population base as tens of millions of migrant workers have poured into urban areas looking for work.
It is the sixth time China has carried out a national census, but the first time it will count people where they live and not where their resident certificate, or hukou, is legally registered.
The change will better track the demographic changes and find the true size of China’s giant cities, the populations of which up to now have been only estimates.
CDC: Cholera matches South Asian strain
PORT-AU-PRINCE | A cholera outbreak that has killed more than 300 people in Haiti matches strains commonly found in South Asia, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.
The finding is a significant step toward answering one of the most important questions about the burgeoning epidemic: How did cholera, a disease never confirmed to have existed in Haiti, suddenly erupt in the country’s rural center?
It also intensifies the scrutiny of a U.N. base that is home to recently arrived Nepalese peacekeepers, built on a tributary to the Artibonite River. Cholera has been detected in the waterway, and most of the cases have been among people who live downriver and drank from the Artibonite.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports