- - Wednesday, August 8, 2012

PAKISTAN

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the prime minister to appear before it to explain why he has not followed instructions from its judges to reopen an old corruption case against the president.

The order is likely to escalate tensions between the court and the government.

The ongoing conflict has dominated Pakistan’s political scene this year, stoking instability at a time when many say the country’s leaders should be more focused on issues such as the energy crisis and the Taliban insurgency.

The court wants Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to write a letter to Swiss authorities asking them to reopen a graft case against President Asif Ali Zardari dating back to the late 1990s. The government maintains that Mr. Zardari has immunity from prosecution while in office and so far has resisted writing the letter.

The previous prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, lost his job in June in a similar showdown with the court after refusing to write the letter.

MEXICO

Ernesto starts acrossYucatan Peninsula

CHETUMAL — Tropical Storm Ernesto spun into Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula Wednesday as hundreds of fishermen fled low-lying villages and thousands of tourists evacuated the resorts of Tulum and the Costa Maya.

Ernesto hit the peninsula as a hurricane, with sustained winds of 85 mph, when it swept over the cruise-ship port of Mahahual shortly before midnight Tuesday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

It had weakened to a tropical storm while moving over land Wednesday, with winds near 60 mph, but it was expected to regain hurricane strength after emerging over the southern Gulf of Mexico on course for a collision with the coast near the city of Veracruz.

The storm was moving west at 15 mph.

AUSTRALIA

Court says motelcan’t ban prostitute

CANBERRA — Prostitutes have the right to work from motel rooms in an Australian state, a court said after finding the owner’s refusal to rent to a sex worker was discriminatory.

The ruling in the northeastern state of Queensland stunned hotel and motel owners, who thought they had a right to decide what sort of businesses would operate from their premises.

The prostitute, identified as G.K., had taken her discrimination case against the Drovers Rest Motel in the coal-mining town of Moranbah to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal after management refused to rent her a room.

The 31/2-star motel’s lawyer, David Edwards, said Wednesday that the court notified him this week that it had upheld the prostitute’s claim of discrimination. Mr. Edwards confirmed that she is seeking damages, which the newspaper the Australian reported to be $32,000.

The tribunal’s reasons for its decision have not yet been made public. Prostitution is legal in Queensland, and discrimination based on lawful sexual activity is outlawed.

UKRAINE

Ukraine adopts Russian-language bill

KIEV — Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has signed legislation that will allow officials in Russian-speaking regions of the country to use the language while speaking at public events and in documents.

Opponents say the law could upset Ukraine’s fragile linguistic balance by upgrading Russian and removing incentives for millions of Russian-speaking Ukrainians to learn and speak Ukrainian.

Critics fear the law will push Ukraine closer to Russia and away from the West, and they call the law a cheap ploy by Mr. Yanukovych to win votes in the Russian-speaking east ahead of October’s parliamentary election.

Sweden

Belarus tells Sweden to close embassy

STOCKHOLM — Belarus on Wednesday ordered Sweden to close its embassy in Minsk by the end of the month, a move that came just days after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko effectively expelled the Swedish ambassador.

The dispute is the latest in a series of diplomatic spats between Belarus and Western nations, especially nations of the European Union that have taken steps against the ex-Soviet country and its longtime autocratic leader over the stifling of human rights.

EU spokesman Sebastien Brabant reiterated the 27-member bloc’s “grave concern” about the earlier decision to bar Swedish Ambassador Stefan Eriksson and said it is “urgently seeking clarification” over Minsk’s latest move.

Sweden said Belarus expelled Mr. Eriksson earlier this month because he had met with the country’s opposition and because Sweden had provided a university in Belarus with books containing material about human rights issues. Belarus said it merely chose not to extend the envoy’s accreditation but added that his activities were aimed at the “destruction” of Belarusian-Swedish relations.

Sweden responded by barring entry for the incoming Belarusian ambassador to Stockholm and asking two Belarusian diplomats to leave the Nordic country.

Chine

Vandals burn busesin student protests

SANTIAGO — Police used water cannons and tear gas Wednesday to break up a protest in Chile’s capital by thousands of students demanding free education.

Small groups of hooded vandals mingled among the students, setting fire to traffic lights and hurling rocks at police. Three buses were set ablaze in the demonstration.

Presidential spokesman Andres Chadwick said student leaders must accept some responsibility after the burning of Transantiago mass-transit system buses.

Santiago’s municipal government had banned the students from flooding the streets of the capital, fearing the protest would turn violent. Demonstrations demanding education reforms have swept Chile for more than a year. The government said one in late June was the most violent, with 472 demonstrators arrested and 36 police officers injured.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports