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World Briefs

- - Monday, August 22, 2011

MONGOLIA

Biden praises Mongolian democracy

ULAN BATOR — Vice President Joseph R. Biden tried his hand at archery and watched a wrestling match during a brief visit Monday in Mongolia, which he called a shining example of democratic development.

Mr. Biden praised Mongolia for carrying out presidential and parliamentary elections after making a peaceful transition to democracy in the early 1990s. The landlocked country had been a Soviet satellite.

Later in the day, Mr. Biden sat under a traditional tent with Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold and other officials as they watched performances in traditional dance and throat-singing.

Mr. Biden also praised Mongolia's military contributions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mongolia is eager to develop its mineral wealth but needs outside help, with companies from neighbors China and Russia, as well as from the United States, Australia, Japan and Canada looking to develop projects.

SYRIA

Arab nations pressure Syria at United Nations

GENEVA — Arab nations demanded Monday that Syria allow an international probe on whether crimes against humanity have been committed during the country's bloody crackdown, illustrating the growing world isolation of President Bashar Assad.

Kuwait said it was making the demand on behalf of some of the other Gulf nations participating in Monday's U.N. Human Rights Council's special session on the Syrian crackdown. Saudi Arabia's ambassador was similarly outspoken.

A U.N. adviser to the 47-nation council, Jean Ziegler, told the Associated Press that the demand for an in-country investigation in Syria likely would be approved at the meeting because of political momentum from Arab nations backing it.

It was not immediately clear exactly how many were supporting the demand.

PUERTO RICO

Hurricane Irene heads for Hispaniola and U.S.

SAN JUAN — Hurricane Irene cut power to more than 1 million people, downed trees and flooded streets in Puerto Rico on Monday.

Forecasters warned that Irene could be a major storm as it threatens Florida and South Carolina by the end of the week.

No reports of deaths or major injuries were reported in Puerto Rico, but Gov. Luis Fortuno declared a state of emergency and urged people to stay indoors to avoid downed power lines, flooded streets and other hazards.

The first hurricane of the Atlantic storm season posed an immediate threat to the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic, though the center of the hurricane was expected to miss neighboring Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola.

Nearly 600,000 Haitians are still homeless as a result of the January 2010 earthquake, and the country still could sustain heavy rain and tropical-storm-force winds.

IRAN

Some centrifuges moved to underground site

TEHRAN — Iran has moved some of its centrifuges to an underground uranium enrichment site that offers better protection from airstrikes, the country's vice president said Monday.

Engineers are "hard at work" preparing the facility in Fordo, which is carved into a mountain to protect it against attacks, to house the centrifuges, Fereidoun Abbasi was quoted as saying by state TV.

Mr. Abbasi, who is also Iran's nuclear chief, did not say how many centrifuges have been moved to Fordo or whether the machines installed are the new, more efficient centrifuges Iran has promised or the old IR-1 types.

He did specify that the centrifuges will be taken to Fordo from Iran's main uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, central Iran.

Uranium enrichment lies at the heart of Iran's dispute with the West, a technology that can be used to produce nuclear fuel or materials for atomic bombs.

NIGERIA

10 killed in buildings destroyed by flooding

MAIDUGURI — Nigerian emergency authorities said at least 10 people have died in building collapses caused by heavy rains in the country's north.

A regional coordinator for the National Emergency Management Agency said Monday that the victims include a mother and her 3-year-old child. Their house caved in during Sunday's six-hour-long rains in Kari, a town that sits along a stream in Bauchi state.

Aliyu Sambo said Kari Primary School had been converted into a camp to provide relief to about 1,800 people who had been displaced by the floods.