- - Sunday, June 26, 2011

BRITAIN

Leader’s friend found dead at British music festival

LONDON — A close friend of Britain’s prime minister was found dead in a portable toilet at one of the country’s leading music festivals Sunday, authorities said.

Christopher Shale died in unexplained circumstances in the VIP area of the Glastonbury Festival, an entertainment extravaganza that is one of the fixtures of Britain’s music calendar.

Mr. Shale, who was in his 50s, chaired the Conservative Association in Prime Minister David Cameron’s West Oxfordshire constituency, and in a statement, Mr. Cameron said he and his wife, Samantha, were devastated by the news.

“He was a great friend and has been a huge support over the last decade,” Mr. Cameron said. “A big rock in my life has suddenly been rolled away. … Like so many others, Sam and I have lost a close and valued friend.”

Mr. Shale was staying in a restricted, celebrity-packed area of the festival, which is held on a farm in southwestern England and has drawn some 170,000 people. He was discovered by police shortly after 9 a.m.

Festival organizer Michael Eavis said he was told the incident was a “suicide situation” but police have yet to confirm that.

RUSSIA

Khodorkovsky supporters detained at Moscow rally

MOSCOW — Moscow police detained about 10 activists who took part in a demonstration in support of jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky on his 48th birthday.

About 50 young activists wearing red T-shirts with Khodorkovsky’s portrait on them marched down the Old Arbat pedestrian street handing out shirts and balloons.

Suddenly, from the rooftop of a building along their route, a large plastic banner was unfurled wishing Khodorkovsky a happy birthday and freedom.

The detained activists were driven away in police vehicles.

Demonstrations also were planned Sunday in St. Petersburg and London.

Khodorkovsky has been in prison since his arrest in 2003 on charges seen as punishment for challenging the power of Vladimir Putin, who was president at the time.

ITALY

Brazilian elected chief of U.N. food agency

ROME — Jose Graziano da Silva of Brazil was elected Sunday as director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the U.N. agency tasked with reducing world hunger at a time of high food prices.

Mr. Graziano, currently FAO’s regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, won on the second ballot with the support of 92 of the 180 FAO member states voting.

He beat out Miguel Angel Moratinos of Spain, his main challenger, and four other candidates to replace Jacques Diouf of Senegal, whose 18-year tenure prompted a change in the agency’s rules to set term limits.

He takes over the agency at a time when high food prices are putting the lives of millions of already hungry and malnourished people at further risk and raising fears of a repeat of the high-price-driven social unrest of 2007-2008.

The FAO’s food price index hit an all-time high in February. It has since decreased slightly, but experts warn that food prices remain far too high for many poor communities. The agency put the number of hungry people in 2010 at 925 million, the overwhelming majority living in developing countries.

The Rome-based FAO is the largest U.N. agency, with an annual budget of about $1 billion. It has faced long-standing calls from top donors such as the United States for bureaucratic reform, budget cuts and better prioritizing of projects.

RUSSIA

Plane crash death toll rises to 47

MOSCOW — Two people who survived a fiery Russian plane crash have died in a Moscow hospital, bringing the death toll to 47.

The Tu-134 plane slammed into a highway just minutes before landing at the Petrozavodsk airport in Russia’s northwest last Monday.

Eight people initially survived the crash, dragged from the burning aircraft by people on the ground, but a 9-year-old boy died a day later.

Dmitry Beloyartsev, a surgeon at the Vishnevsky hospital, said a woman died late Saturday and a man on Sunday. Both had been severely burned in the crash and brought to Moscow for treatment.

The crash of the 31-year-old plane has been blamed on pilot error, but Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev also has announced plans to take the aging Soviet-built planes out of service starting next year.

From wire dispatches and staff reports