- - Monday, January 17, 2011

SUDAN

Observers: Sudan vote was peaceful, credible

JUBA | A group of election observers led by former President Jimmy Carter said Monday that they found southern Sudan’s recent referendum on independence from the north to have been credible.

Mr. Carter’s observation mission also praised the Sudanese for their patience and commitment during the weeklong vote, which ended Saturday. U.N. and EU missions have also said the vote was largely peaceful and legitimate.

The referendum was part of a 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of civil war between the largely Christian and animist south and the mostly Muslim north. The south is expected to vote overwhelmingly for secession, splitting Africa’s largest nation. But the two regions will continue to depend on each other — the south has most of Sudan’s oil, but the north has the infrastructure to export it.

IRAN

Report: Sanctions hurt, but compromise unlikely

LONDON | President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s management of Iran’s economy has been a “disaster” and sanctions are making matters worse, a report said on Monday, but Tehran is still unlikely to compromise on its nuclear program.

Iran is due to hold a second round of talks with six major powers over its disputed nuclear activities in Istanbul on Friday and Saturday following U.N., U.S., and EU sanctions imposed last year that target oil and gas sectors vital to the Iranian economy.

But Mr. Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are unlikely to be swayed, wrote Jonathan Paris in a report for the Legatum Institute, a London-based think tank backed by the Legatum investment group.

SOUTH KOREA

Official: N. Korea ‘may collapse’

SEOUL | North Korea could bring about its own collapse if it keeps pouring resources into nuclear and conventional weapons, South Korea’s national security adviser said in an interview to be screened Monday.

Chun Yung-woo argued in the interview with U.S. public broadcaster PBS that the Pyongyang regime faces so severe an economic crisis that it could collapse sooner than expected.

The “energy for change is growing” and will reach “critical mass” at some point in the impoverished communist state, Mr. Chun said in excerpts posted on the PBS website.

“We have shut down major channels of cash flow annually into North Korea” through sanctions, Mr. Chun said, adding that the North’s continued spending on military capabilities “would be a shortcut to their demise.”

BRITAIN

Ex-banker to give files to WikiLeaks

LONDON | A former Swiss banker on Monday supplied documents to WikiLeaks that he alleges detail attempts by wealthy business leaders and lawmakers to evade tax payments.

Rudolf Elmer, an ex-employee of Swiss-based bank Julius Baer, said there were 2,000 account holders named in the documents, but refused to give details of the companies or individuals involved.

He previously has offered files to WikiLeaks on financial activities in the Cayman Islands and faces a court hearing in Zurich on Wednesday to answer charges of coercion and violating Switzerland’s strict banking secrecy laws.

PAKISTAN

Militant fight leads to polio spike

PESHAWAR | Pakistan was the only country in 2010 to record an increase in cases of polio — 138, up from 89 in the previous year, according to World Health Organization figures. That made it the nation with the highest incidence of the crippling disease in the world.

Most cases were in the northwest close to the Afghan border, where battles between the U.S.-supported Pakistani army and Taliban fighters make many areas too dangerous to visit. The army bans travel to parts of the region, citing the security situation, and territory under militant control is highly dangerous for outsiders, even Pakistani aid workers.

From wire dispatches and staff reports