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World Scene

- - Sunday, October 10, 2010

KOREA

Senior N. Korea defector dies

SEOUL | Hwang Jang-yop, the intellectual force behind the philosophy of self-reliance that guided North Korea and a top official in the Workers' Party that still rules the communist nation, has died.

Mr. Hwang, considered North Korea's chief ideologist, defected from the Pyongyang regime in 1997, during a visit to China, triggering a five-week diplomatic standoff.

Safely in South Korea, he spoke out about the danger posed not just to the Korean peninsula but to the world by the dictatorship in the North, and said trying to persuade the North to give up its nuclear ambition was hopeless so long as Kim Jong-il was in power.

Mr. Hwang's naked body was found Sunday morning in a bathtub at his home in Seoul. Foul play was not initially suspected, but an autopsy was planned. Mr. Hwang was 87.

CHILE

Rescue of miners to begin Wednesday

SAN JOSE MINE | After more than two months trapped deep in a Chilean mine, 33 miners were enjoying Sunday tantalizingly close to rescue as workers began reinforcing an escape shaft. Chile's mining minister said a video inspection showed the hole's walls are firm enough to allow the men to be hoisted out as early as Wednesday.

Officials said late Saturday that workers first must reinforce the top few hundred feet of the tunnel and had begun welding steel pipes for that purpose, and rescue operations chief Andre Sougarret said they began the work early Sunday

The plan is to insert 16 steel tubes, each about 20 feet long into the tunnel that was drilled down to the miners' cavern.

Completion of the 28-inch-diameter escape shaft Saturday morning caused bedlam in the tent city known as "Camp Hope," where the miners' relatives had held vigil for an agonizing 66 days since a cave-in sealed off the gold and copper mine Aug. 5.

Miners videotaped the piston-powered hammer drill's breakthrough at 2,041 feet underground and could be seen cheering and embracing, the drillers said.

PAKISTAN

Afghan border crossing reopened to NATO troops

ISLAMABAD | Trucks bearing NATO supplies began flowing again Sunday across a critical border crossing into Afghanistan, opened a day earlier than expected by Pakistan and ending a blockade that had raised tensions between Washington and a key ally.

Pakistan had shut down the Torkham crossing along the Khyber Pass after a U.S. helicopter strike in the border area killed two Pakistani soldiers 11 days ago.

After an apology from top U.S. officials last week, Pakistan announced Saturday that Torkham would be reopened. The crossing is usually closed Sundays, however, and the U.S. had said it did not expect trucks to begin moving again until Monday.

It was not clear whether the decision to allow the vehicles through Sunday was a goodwill gesture by Islamabad or a pragmatic move to relieve the backlog of vehicles that have been stranded along roads in Pakistan and left vulnerable to militant attacks.

During the blockade, about 150 trucks were destroyed and some drivers and police were injured in near-daily attacks that left drivers fearing for their lives and hurt trucking companies' profits.

ISRAEL

Cabinet approves loyalty oath

JERUSALEM | Israel's mainly right-wing government on Sunday overwhelmingly voted for legislation requiring non-Jewish new citizens to swear allegiance to the country as a Jewish state.

The measure has been widely condemned as racist by Israel's Arab minority but appeared designed to placate hard-line ministers ahead of a decision to extend a settlement moratorium seen as key to U.S.-backed peace efforts with the Palestinians.

It still has to be approved by parliament before becoming law.

KYRGYZSTAN

Voters turn out for historic election

OSH | Voters turned out in force Sunday in Kyrgyzstan to choose a new and empowered parliament that the government hopes will usher in an unprecedented era of democracy.

This former Soviet nation, which hosts a vital U.S. air base near Afghanistan, is set to embrace a parliamentary system of governance in a largely untroubled vote that has won praise from the United States.

The vote came after an exhausting year of political turbulence and ethnic violence in the south.

A fair vote among the 29 competing parties and the creation of a strong legislature would set Kyrgyzstan apart from the other former Soviet republics in Central Asia, where power is usually held by authoritarian and unaccountable leaders. A democratic Kyrgyzstan also would create a sense of unease in the neighboring countries and may help nurture the seedlings of democratic ideals.

From wire dispatches and staff reports