- - Monday, January 16, 2012

THAILAND

Police seize explosives, charge Lebanese man

BANGKOK — A foreign suspect with alleged links to Hezbollah militants led Thai police Monday to a warehouse filled with materials commonly used to make bombs, as Thailand and the U.S. disagreed over whether Bangkok was the target of a terror plot.

Police seized more than 8,800 pounds of urea fertilizer and several gallons of liquid ammonium nitrate at the warehouse in Samut Sakhon, on the western outskirts of Bangkok, according to police and media reports.

The U.S. Embassy had issued an “emergency message” Friday warning of a possible terror threat against Americans in Bangkok, and Israel warned its citizens as well.

NIGERIA

Labor unions announce suspension of fuel strike

LAGOS — Unions suspended their nationwide strike on Monday, hours after President Goodluck Jonathan partially reinstated subsidies to keep gasoline prices low and deployed soldiers in the streets to halt widening demonstrations.

Union leaders described their decision as a victory for labor, allowing its leaders to guide the country’s policy on fuel subsidies in the future while having gas prices drop to about $2.27 a gallon.

However, many protesters joined the demonstrations with hopes of seeing gas return to its previous price of about $1.70 per gallon, while also speaking out against a culture of government corruption in Africa’s most populous nation.

POLAND

Court fines singer for defaming Bible

WARSAW — A Polish court slapped a fine on a popular singer who bad-mouthed the Bible in the latest episode in which authorities grapple with religious defamation in a traditionally Catholic country that is growing increasingly secular.

Dorota Rabczewska, a singer who uses the stage name Doda, said in a 2009 interview that she doubted the Bible “because it’s hard to believe in something that was written by someone drunk on wine and smoking some herbs.”

A Warsaw court ordered her Monday to pay a fine of $1,450 for offending religious feelings.

The case comes months after another Polish court let off a heavy-metal performer, Adam Darski, who tore a Bible during a 2007 performance. The court deemed his act artistic expression.

KAZAKHSTAN

Opposition parties win a few seats in election

ASTANA — Election officials in Kazakhstan say three parties have won seats in the parliament, ending the total control once held by the president’s party.

However, President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s Nur Otan party remains the overwhelming force in the legislature, winning more than 80 percent of the vote in Sunday’s election.

Nur Otan held all elected seats in the previous 107-member parliament. Nine deputies are nominated by a presidential advisory body.

According to results released Monday by the Central Elections Commission, the business-oriented Ak Zhol party and the People’s Communist Party got slightly more than 7 percent of the nationwide vote, clearing the threshold for gaining seats.

There was no immediate breakdown on the number of seats for each party.

Meanwhile, international election monitors of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the election failed to meet the fundamental principles of a democratic vote.

ISRAEL

War games scrapped to avoid tensions with Iran

JERUSALEM — Israeli and U.S. officials have postponed large-scale war games, in part to avoid aggravating mounting tensions between the international community and Iran over its disputed nuclear program, Israeli defense officials said Monday.

The missile-defense exercise, dubbed “Austere Challenge 12,” was scheduled for April to improve defense systems and cooperation between U.S. and Israeli forces. The Israeli military confirmed in a one-line statement that the drill would be rescheduled for the second half of 2012, but did not disclose reasons for the postponement or any other details.

From wire dispatches and staff reports