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World Briefs: Karzai praises Pakistan for releasing Taliban prisoners

- - Tuesday, November 20, 2012

KABUL — Afghanistan's president praised Pakistan on Tuesday for releasing a group of Taliban prisoners, a move he hopes will kick-start peace talks with the militant group, the president's office said.

The praise was announced in a meeting between President Hamid Karzai and Pakistan's powerful army chief of staff, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, who was in Kabul for a one-day visit. Gen. Kayani also met with senior members of the international military coalition.

Mr. Karzai "praised Pakistan's decision to release, for the success of the peace process, a number of Taliban prisoners," the Afghan president's office said in a statement.

Pakistan has released at least nine Taliban prisoners. The most prominent is former Justice Minister Nooruddin Turabi, who served when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s.

Afghan officials said last week that the Pakistanis have agreed to release others as well.

IRAN

Watchdog: Sanctions have no effect on Iran nuke program

PARIS — The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said he has no evidence that international sanctions against Iran have had any impact on its nuclear program.

U.S.-led international sanctions over Iran's nuclear program have hurt the Islamic republic's economy, but Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Tuesday that nuclear monitors "do not see any effect" from the sanctions.

He said Iran is still producing enriched uranium at up to 20 percent at "a quite constant pace."

Mr. Amano said the IAEA cannot determine whether Iran is planning or will gain a nuclear weapon.

On Wednesday, the European Union's foreign policy chief will host political directors from six world powers that have held talks intermittently with Iran.

Tehran insists that its nuclear program is peaceful, but many Western nations fear it masks a weapons program.

IRELAND

3 doctors taken off inquiry into pregnant woman's death

DUBLIN — The Irish government removed three doctors Tuesday from its investigation into the death of an ailing woman who was denied an abortion in an Irish hospital, a case that has exposed Ireland to worldwide criticism.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny told lawmakers that he hoped the move — barely 24 hours after Ireland announced the seven-member panel — would allow the woman's widower to support the probe into why Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old Indian dentist, died Oct. 28 while hospitalized in Galway.

Mr. Kenny made the U-turn hours after her widower, Praveen Halappanavar, said he would refuse to talk with the investigators and would not consent to their viewing his wife's medical records because three of the Galway hospital's senior doctors had been appointed as investigators.

Mr. Halappanavar's wife was 17 weeks pregnant with what would have been their first child when she was admitted to Galway's hospital Oct. 21 suffering from severe pain. Doctors quickly established that she was miscarrying, with her cervix dilated and amniotic fluid leaking.

For three days, doctors refused requests for a termination of the pregnancy because the fetus still had a heartbeat, Mr. Halappanavar said.

ARGENTINA

Kirchner faces strike by former union allies

BUENOS AIRES — Road and air transport delays plagued Argentina on Tuesday, as President Cristina Kirchner, her approval rating in free fall, faced the second mass protest in as many weeks.

After tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets Nov. 8 to complain about inflation and high crime rates, unions called a 24-hour general strike over taxes, led by a union boss once allied with Ms. Kirchner.

Roadblocks cut off main access routes into the capital, Buenos Aires, causing traffic jams, while domestic flights were canceled at the city's Aeroparque airport. One subway line also came to a standstill.

Chilean airline LAN announced that it would scrap flights within Argentina scheduled to take off before 4 p.m., as well as seven regional flights headed to and originating from Sao Paulo, Lima and the Chilean capital, Santiago.

Behind the strike is the powerful head of the opposition faction of Argentina's CGT labor federation, Hugo Moyano, who backed Ms. Kirchner until last year. A splinter group of the CTA union also called for the strike.

The union activists are demanding lower income taxes.

BRITAIN

Church of England says no to female bishops

LONDON — The Church of England's governing body narrowly blocked a move Tuesday to permit women to serve as bishops, leaving the church facing more years of contentious debate.

After a daylong debate, opponents mustered enough support to deny the necessary two-thirds majority among lay members of the General Synod.

The defeat was a setback for Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who retires at the end of December, and his successor, Bishop Justin Welby. Both endorsed a proposed compromise that they hoped would end decades of debate.

Legislation to allow women to serve as bishops must be approved by two-thirds majorities in the synod's three houses: bishops, priests and laity.

Synod members were voting on the latest compromise, which called for church leaders to respect the position of parishes that oppose female bishops — without saying exactly what "respect" means.

The vote was 132 in favor and 74 against. In separate votes, bishops voted 44-3 in favor with two abstentions, and clergy voted 148-45 in favor.

Church officials say it may take five years to go through the process of taking new legislation to a final vote.

CROATIA

Ex-prime minister gets 10 years for corruption

ZAGREB — A court on Tuesday convicted former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader of graft and sentenced him to 10 years in prison after a trial closely watched by the European Union.

Sanader, 59, who served as prime minister from 2004 to 2009, is the highest-ranking former government official to be tried for corruption in Croatia, which has pledged to root out graft as it prepares to join the EU in July.

Judges found Sanader guilty of accepting a $13 million bribe from Hungarian oil company MOL in return for securing it controlling rights in Croatia's state oil company INA, and receiving nearly $700,000 in kickbacks for a lucrative credit deal with Hypo Alpe Adria Group that gave the Austrian bank a leading position on the Croatian market.

From wire dispatches and staff reports