- - Monday, July 2, 2012

GAUHATI — The worst monsoon floods in a decade to hit a remote northeastern Indian state have killed more than 80 people and forced around 2 million to leave their homes, officials said Monday.

Nearly half a million people are living in relief camps that have been set up across Assam state, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told journalists in Gauhati, Assam’s capital. The rest of the 2 million displaced have moved in with relatives or are living in the open, sheltering under tarpaulin sheets.

Assam officials said 81 people have been killed over the past four days. Most of them were swept away when the mighty Brahmaputra River overflowed its banks and flooded villages. Sixteen people were buried in landslides triggered by the rains.

At least 11 people were missing in six districts, the state disaster management agency said in its bulletin.

PAKISTAN

NATO supply deal looking more likely

ISLAMABAD — U.S. and Pakistani officials expressed optimism Monday that Islamabad was close to reopening its Afghan border to NATO troop supplies after a seven-month blockade, a move that could significantly reduce tension between the two countries.

The tussle over the supply line, which Pakistan closed in November in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes that killed 24 of its troops, has driven the bilateral relationship to new lows, threatening U.S. prospects in Afghanistan.

The two sides have been deadlocked for months because of disagreements over transit payments and Washington’s refusal to apologize for the deadly attack, which it insists was an accident.

Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf called a meeting of the defense committee of the Cabinet on Tuesday to decide whether to reopen the supply line, according to a senior Pakistani official.

NORTH KOREA

U.N.: N. Korea violating sanctions

UNITED NATIONS — North Korea continues to violate U.N. sanctions by attempting to ship arms to Syria and Myanmar and illegally importing luxury goods, according to a long-awaited report by a U.N. experts panel.

No violations involving nuclear, chemical or biological weapons or ballistic missiles were mentioned in the 74-page report to the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions, published Friday.

New KN-08 ballistic missiles seen at an April military parade celebrating the centenary of founder Kim Il-sung’s birth could be fake, the report said. The missiles were carried by a new, larger transporter that the experts panel is investigating.

The Security Council imposed sanctions against North Korea after its first nuclear test in 2006 and stepped up sanctions after its second test in 2009 to try to derail the country’s rogue nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

The panel found “ample evidence” that North Korea “continues actively to defy the measures in the resolutions,” citing “elaborate techniques” used in “several interceptions of proscribed goods.”

“Nevertheless, although the resolutions have not caused the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to halt its banned activities, they appear to have slowed them and made illicit transactions significantly more difficult and expensive,” the report said.

JAPAN

Dozens quit ruling party in blow to premier

TOKYO — A powerful member of Japan’s ruling party and dozens of his followers quit the group Monday and are likely to form their own rival bloc, dealing a blow to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

Ichiro Ozawa and 49 other lawmakers submitted their resignations to the Democratic Party of Japan and others could follow later, a party official said. Thirty-eight are members of the lower house of parliament, where a loss of 11 more lawmakers would end the ruling party’s majority and could force Mr. Noda to call new elections.

Mr. Ozawa, 70, played a key role in the party’s rise to power in 2009, defeating the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party. He has been a vocal critic of Mr. Noda’s plan to double Japan’s sales tax to 10 percent by 2015.

KOSOVO

25-nation bloc to end Kosovo’s supervision

VIENNA — A 25-nation group supervising Kosovo’s democratic progress announced Monday that it will end oversight of Europe’s youngest independent nation in September, a move that will bring the ethnically divided country closer to its aspirations of European Union and NATO membership.

The decision, announced Monday in Vienna by Pieter Feith of Kosovo’s International Civilian Office, reflected confidence that Kosovo’s leadership could reduce tensions between majority ethnic Albanians and minority Serbs.

International military and police units, however, will still patrol Kosovo to lower the risk of ethnic violence.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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