- - Monday, January 31, 2011

IRAN

U.S. woman summoned for Feb. 6 trial

TEHRAN | Iran has summoned a U.S. woman to return to the country and stand trial on Feb. 6 along with two other Americans still in custody and accused of spying after crossing the border from Iraq, a judiciary spokesman said Monday.

Their families say the Americans were just travelers out on a hike in Iraq’s Kurdish region when they were arrested on July 31, 2009. The only woman among them, Sarah Shourd, was released on bail in September and returned to the United States.

The U.S. government has denied the charges against them and demanded their release. Their lengthy detention has added to tensions between the two nations over issues like Iran’s disputed nuclear program.

A Revolutionary Court in Tehran has summoned Miss Shourd to return and stand trial, said judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi in remarks carried on the state news agency, IRNA.

RUSSIA

Hundreds of Russians protest against Putin

MOSCOW | About 500 people demonstrated in a central Moscow square Monday to demand the ouster of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his “rule of thieves.”

Prominent opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was jailed for 15 days after a similar demonstration a month ago, kept up his assault on Russia’s longtime leader.

Russia’s beleaguered opposition holds demonstrations on the last day of every month with 31 days to call attention to the 31st Article of Russia’s Constitution, which guarantees freedom of assembly.

NIGER

Hopeful voters try for democracy — again

NIAMEY | This impoverished country on the edge of the Sahara took another stab at democracy Monday when it voted for a new president who is expected to take over leadership from the military.

Gen. Salou Djibo, who led a coup last February that ousted President Mamadou Tandja after he overstayed his term, called on voters to go to the polls and cast their own ballot early in the presidential and parliamentary elections.

Although rich in uranium, this African nation of 15 million is among the bottom of the U.N.’s Human Development Index, which ranks countries in order of general well-being. Its northern deserts and even the capital, Niamey, have been the scene of kidnappings linked to al Qaeda terrorists.

BELARUS

EU, U.S. deepen Belarus sanctions

BRUSSELS | The European Union and the United States slapped new sanctions on Belarus on Monday in response to a violent crackdown on protests after a disputed re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko in December.

Western governments, concerned over human rights violations in the former Soviet republic, have pressed Mr. Lukashenko to free scores of protesters held after the Dec. 19 vote, judged as fraudulent by the opposition and international monitors.

Mr. Lukashenko released seven detainees on Saturday, including a former presidential candidate, but kept others behind bars.

SUDAN

Officials: Sudan accepts south secession vote

KHARTOUM | Sudan’s vice president said Monday he accepted the oil-producing south’s split after the first official results showed a 99 percent vote for independence in a referendum hoping to end a bitter cycle of civil war.

The Jan. 9 vote culminated a 2005 north-south peace deal, which aims to put an end to the conflict which claimed 2 million lives and destabilized much of eastern Africa. The south will likely celebrate independence on July 9.

“We announce our agreement and our acceptance of the result of the referendum announced yesterday,” Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha told reporters in the north’s first reaction since the results.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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