- - Tuesday, May 24, 2011

NORTH KOREA

U.S. team in N. Korea to discuss food aid, rights

BEIJING — A U.S. government team was in North Korea on a rare trip Tuesday to assess food shortages, while the country’s reclusive leader Kim Jong-il reportedly traveled to an eastern Chinese city to study Beijing’s economic reforms.

The American delegation - led by Robert King, U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues - will use its five-day visit to verify food supply surveys conducted by the U.N. and U.S.-based charities and see if there are ways to monitor aid distribution.

The State Department said Mr. King would also raise human rights concerns and the detention of U.S. citizen Eddie Jun, who was arrested in November.

This is the first visit by an American human rights envoy to the North, though Mr. King himself traveled to the country as a congressional aide.

UNITED NATIONS

U.N. nuke agency pressures Iran, Syria

VIENNA — The U.N. atomic agency said Tuesday it strongly believes that Syria tried to build a nuclear reactor, in a report that sets the stage for the country’s referral to the U.N. Security Council within the next few weeks.

In a separate report, the organization - the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) - said it has received new information alleging that Iran had secretly worked on components of a nuclear-weapons program.

A senior official familiar with the Iran report said the information suggests that such experiments went on at least until last year. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing confidential matters.

Both restricted reports were issued for the June 6-10 meeting of the 35-nation IAEA board where the agency’s probes of Iran and Syria are main agenda items. Both reports were obtained by the Associated Press shortly after their release to board members.

YEMEN

Al Qaeda bomber leaves behind a fingerprint

The FBI has a fingerprint and forensic evidence linking al Qaeda’s top bomb maker in Yemen to a trio of explosive devices used in recent attacks on the United States, tangible reminders that Osama bin Laden’s death has not eliminated the threat from the group’s most active and dangerous franchise.

Investigators have pulled a fingerprint of Ibrahim al-Asiri off the bomb hidden in the underwear of a Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, U.S. counterterrorism officials said.

Investigators also determined that the explosives used in that bomb are chemically identical to those hidden inside two printers that were shipped from Yemen last year, bound for Chicago and Philadelphia.

RUSSIA

Court upholds Khodorkovsky conviction

MOSCOW — A Moscow appeals court upheld the second conviction of oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky, but it also reduced his 14-year prison sentence by one year.

Tuesday’s decision means that the 47-year-old Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, will remain in prison until 2016.

He was convicted in December of stealing tens of billions of dollars’ worth of oil from his own company and laundering the proceeds - a politically tainted ruling that drew strong international condemnation.

Khodorkovsky was seen as a political threat to Vladimir Putin, who was president in 2003 when Khodorkovsky was arrested and remains Russia’s most powerful leader now that he is prime minister.

GUATEMALA

Police arrest Mexicans linked to killings

GUATEMALA CITY — Guatemala’s interior minister said police arrested five Mexican drug cartel members suspected of links to the May 15 massacre of 27 people.

Carlos Menocal said the five Mexican men entered the country illegally.

The men are suspected of helping Hugo Alvaro Gomez Vasquez, who is the chief suspect in the massacre of farmworkers and their relatives at a ranch in the Peten region.

The men allegedly helped Mr. Gomez Vasquez kill a relative of the ranch’s owner, and they are being investigated for the massacre itself.

The men are allegedly members of the Zetas cartel. On Tuesday, officials found the hacked-up body of an assistant prosecutor along with a message allegedly signed by the Zetas.