- - Sunday, October 17, 2010

VIETNAM

Missing boat, crew found adrift

HANOI | Nine Vietnamese fishermen detained by China near disputed islands in September who were set free last week and then lost at sea have been located and taken to safety, the Vietnamese government said.

The detention of the Vietnamese sailors was the latest incident in a web of complex, long-running territorial disputes in the South China Sea and had threatened to become an irritant at an Asia-Pacific defense ministers meeting in Hanoi last week.

China freed the sailors on Oct. 11 — exactly one month after they were detained and a day before the defense ministers were set to meet.

But they had not returned to port in central Vietnam within the expected period of time, sparking concern and leading Vietnam to ask for Chinese help in searching for the trawler.

The Vietnamese government website, www.chinhphu.vn, reported that the boat’s engine had died and the sailors used blankets as sails before a Chinese patrol vessel found them adrift and brought them to an island in the disputed Paracel archipelago, near where they had been fishing in the first place.

Bad weather would keep them on the island for a few more days, the website said in a report seen on Sunday.

TURKEY

Ex-prime minister stages comeback

ANKARA | Turkey’s first Islamist prime minister, Necmettin Erbakan, has staged a political comeback at the age of 83 by becoming leader Sunday of the small Saadet party, the Anatolia news agency reported.

Mr. Erbakan was elected unopposed as president of Saadet (Felicity), which won less than 3 percent of votes in the last parliamentary elections in 2007 and a little over 5 percent in last year’s municipal balloting.

He became prime minister of a coalition government in 1996 before being forced to resign under pressure from the military — the staunch defenders of Turkey’s secular constitution — after just one year in office.

His Refah (Welfare) party was subsequently banned by the constitutional court in January 1998, and Mr. Erbakan was handed a two-year prison term in 2002 on embezzlement charges, although the sentence was later commuted to house arrest.

ISRAEL

Israel, Hamas resume prisoner-swap talks

JERUSALEM | Israel said Sunday it has resumed indirect talks with the Hamas rulers of Gaza on swapping hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for a captive soldier held for more than four years.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the German mediator who has been working to broker a deal to bring home the soldier for about a year has returned to the region.

“We are operating at all times, in different and various ways to bring him back. One of these ways, even the main way, is this negotiation, which indeed resumed a few weeks ago,” Mr. Netanyahu told Israel Army Radio on Sunday.

The announcement was the latest twist in a saga that has gripped the country’s attention since Hamas-linked militants captured Sgt. Gilad Shalit in a June 2006 raid across the Gaza-Israeli border.

Secret negotiations over a swap, mediated by Egypt and more recently by Germany, have broken down repeatedly, and talks have been stalled for months.

Hamas, which seeks Israel’s destruction, has no official relations with Israel.

Deals proposed in the past would have entailed Israel swapping about 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for Sgt. Shalit.

NIGERIA

Court: Ex-leader can be extradited

LAGOS | Officials say a Dubai court has ruled that a former Nigerian governor can be extradited to the United Kingdom to face embezzlement charges.

A Nigerian government spokesman says a court found cause to honor an extradition request for former Delta state Gov. James Ibori, a prominent politician in the ruling People’s Democratic Party. Authorities have said Mr. Ibori faces charges of stealing $292 million in state funds while in office. British investigators claimed Mr. Ibori put much of the money in English banks.

CONGO

Women march, demand end to mass rapes

KINSHASA | Thousands of women led by Congo’s first lady were marching in the country’s volatile east on Sunday to demand an end to a wave of mass rapes.

First lady Olive Lembe Kabila led the women through the town of Bukavu. The United Nations recently reported that 303 civilians were raped in 13 nearby villages from July 30 to Aug. 2.

Congo’s top U.N. envoy also said more than 15,000 people were raped in eastern Congo last year. But he said it’s impossible for 18,000 U.N. peacekeepers to protect everyone in the massive area where armed groups operate. Another U.N. official said most attacks were committed by “men in uniform.”

Congo’s defense minister denied soldiers were involved. But the justice minister said courts have prosecuted several officers, including a general.

From wire dispatches and staff reports