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World Scene

- - Sunday, July 31, 2011

CUBA

Dulles-to-Cancun flight makes emergency landing

HAVANA — A United Airlines jetliner carrying 135 passengers from Washington to a Mexican beach resort made an unplanned landing in Cuba on Sunday after a strange odor was detected on board, a spokesman for the carrier said.

United Airlines Flight 831 left Washington Dulles International Airport in the morning and was bound for Cancun, but instead landed safely in Havana after "the crew noticed an unfamiliar smell in the cabin," spokesman Charles Hobart said in a statement.

"In an abundance of caution, the pilots decided to land the aircraft at the nearest available airport," he said. "The plane landed routinely and safely in Havana, and we are working to reaccommodate our customers."

Gloria Berbena, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Interests Section, which Washington maintains in Havana instead of an embassy since the two nations do not have full diplomatic relations, said a second plane arrived from the U.S. later Sunday and flew out with the passengers.

She did not know whether they continued to Cancun or returned to the U.S., or whether the original aircraft was still in Cuba. U.S. diplomats on the island were in close contact with their Cuban counterparts on the matter, she said.

IRAN

Verdict for 2 U.S. hikers within a week

TEHRAN — The lawyer for two Americans jailed in Iran on charges of espionage said Sunday the court will announce its verdict within a week, dashing hopes for their immediate release after a final hearing in the case.

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, both 29, have been held in Iran's Evin Prison since shortly after their arrest along the border with Iraq exactly two years ago on Sunday. The case has added to tensions between the United States and Iran that already were high over issues like Tehran's disputed nuclear program.

The Americans' lawyer, Masoud Shafiei, had hoped that Sunday's final court session would result in their immediate release because it coincided with the two-year anniversary of their arrest and came near the start this week of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, when pardons are traditionally handed down.

Mr. Shafiei said he and the two Americans presented closing arguments in their defense and the court announced the end of its hearings.

He said he was still hopeful that, if found guilty, they would be sentenced to time already served and released.

CHINA

11 killed in clashes in troubled northwest

BEIJING — Police fatally shot four people Sunday in China's far northwest, bringing to 11 the death toll in weekend violence in one of the country's most troubled ethnic regions.

The people died after more than 10 pedestrians and officers were injured in what the state-run Xinhua News Agency called "an eruption of violence" Sunday afternoon in Kashgar. It followed a day of clashes in the same Silk Road city that killed seven people and injured 22.

Xinijang region has been on edge since nearly 200 people were killed in fighting between Uighurs and Han Chinese in 2009 in Urumqi, the regional capital.

Xinhua did not give a reason for the latest violence, but Xinjiang has been beset by ethnic conflict and a sometimes violent separatist movement by Uighurs, a largely Muslim ethnic group that sees Xinjiang as its homeland. Many Uighurs say they have been marginalized as more majority Han Chinese move into the region.

It was unclear who started the clashes in Kashgar. But an overseas ethnic activist group said Sunday it feared the violence could prompt a new crackdown on minority Uighurs blamed for previous violence in the region.

JAPAN

Prime minister criticizes nuclear safety agency

TOKYO — Japan's prime minister on Sunday criticized the country's nuclear safety agency for allegedly trying to plant questions aimed at supporting atomic energy at public forums.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) was siding with the industry rather than acting as a regulator. He said it underscored a cozy relationship and the deep-rooted problem that must be corrected in the wake of the March 11 tsunami and the nuclear crisis.

"NISA, which is supposed to check nuclear safety to represent the interest of the general public, provided support for the promoters. It was more than just a help, if true," Mr. Kan said at an energy symposium.

Mr. Kan's comment followed a government report showing NISA allegedly tried to manipulate public opinion at town meetings to promote nuclear power.

ISRAEL

Thousands of Israelis protest high cost of living

JERUSALEM — Tens of thousands of Israelis took to the streets nationwide on Saturday to protest rising housing prices in the largest turnout in a grass-roots movement that began two weeks ago and is demanding steps from the government to ease the burden.

The protests over housing costs have tapped into wider discontent among Israelis over the high cost of living and the growing gaps between rich and poor.

Other protests include doctors striking over working conditions and pay, parents demonstrating against expensive child-rearing costs and similar outpourings over increasing gas prices.

Thousands thronged the streets of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other major cities and chanted, "The people demand social justice." Protesters waved Israeli flags and placards that read: "Work 3 jobs but don't make ends meet," "Killing ourselves to live" and "Social gaps are killing us."

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said more than 100,000 people protested in 10 cities across the country from Beersheba in the south to Kiryat Shmoneh at the northern tip of the country Saturday night. Police closed major streets for the protesters to march.

The demonstrations began two weeks ago in Tel Aviv, where young activists set up a small tent encampment in a central neighborhood to draw attention to the country's housing crunch. The protests, inspired in part by unrest in neighboring Arab countries, have continued to gain steam and show no signs of slowing.

From wire dispatches and staff reports