World Briefs: Senior official meets Iranian leader

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SEOUL — North Korea’s ceremonial head of state has vowed to strengthen ties with Iran and reaffirmed a shared hostility toward the United States during a meeting with Iran’s leader, state media said Sunday.

Kim Young-Nam, attending a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran, met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Saturday to clarify Pyongyang’s “firm stand” to boost ties with Tehran, the North’s KCNA news agency said.

Mr. Kim stressed the need for more bilateral exchanges among high-level delegations and a boost in economic and diplomatic ties during the talks that took place under “friendly atmosphere”, it added.

The Iranian authorities said boosting bilateral relations would be beneficial to both nations, praising the North’s “steadfast anti-imperialist, anti-U.S. stand”, KCNA said.

Both North Korea and Iran are subject to international sanctions because of their nuclear activities and their governments share a deep hostility towards the U.S.

SOUTH AFRICA

Prosecutors to drop miners’ murder charges

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s top prosecutor announced Sunday that she is withdrawing murder charges against 270 miners in the killing of 34 striking co-workers who were fatally shot by police.

The National Union of Metal Workers, meanwhile, demanded the suspension of the officers responsible for the shootings.

Sunday’s announcement follows a barrage of criticism from political parties, trade unions, civil society and legal specialists.

Even the justice minister had challenged the prosecutor’s decision to charge the arrested miners under an apartheid-era law that opened President Jacob Zuma’s government to accusations that it was acting like the former brutal white rulers.

Nomqcobo Jiba, the acting director of public prosecutions, did not say why she had reversed her decision to shift the blame from the police to the miners.

ISRAEL

Netanyahu calls for ‘clear red line’ on Iran

JERUSALEM — Israel’s prime minister on Sunday urged the international community to get tougher against Iran, saying that without a “clear red line,” Tehran will not halt its nuclear program.

The tough language from Benjamin Netanyahu reflects differences that have emerged between Israel and its allies, particularly the U.S., over how to deal with Iran.

Israel has warned that the Iranians are quickly approaching weapons capability and that the threat of force must be seriously considered. The U.S. says sanctions and international diplomacy must be given more time to work.

Mr. Netanyahu, speaking to his Cabinet, said that a new report issued by the U.N. nuclear agency showing progress in the Iranian nuclear program bolsters his claim that international pressure is not working.

MYANMAR

Daily newspapers to be permitted next year

YANGON — Myanmar’s new information minister on Sunday predicted that privately owned newspapers would be able to publish daily starting early next year, heralding fresh reform for a sector recently freed from decades of draconian censorship.

Aung Kyi told the Myanmar Times that state-owned newspapers — currently the only news publications allowed to be printed daily — also would be revamped with private-sector involvement in the coming months.

“It is my sincere belief that daily private-sector newspapers are essential for a democratic country,” said Aung Kyi, who replaced a prominent hard-liner last week when he was appointed as part of a Cabinet reshuffle seen as promoting reformists in Myanmar’s government.

The former labor minister, who acted as the liaison between Myanmar’s previous junta government and democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi while she was under house arrest, said a code of practice should be discussed before changes are made to publication rules for private weekly journals.

GAZA STRIP

Hamas announces Cabinet reshuffle

GAZA CITY — The leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas, which governs Gaza, announced a Cabinet reshuffle on Sunday, appointing seven new ministers including a new finance minister.

Ismail Haniyeh said the reshuffle was a “normal procedure after nearly six years of work by some ministers and in order to achieve specific goals for the current period.”

He also said the new Cabinet is partly a reaction to the changing landscape of the Middle East in the wake of uprisings in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and other Arab countries. “This shuffle will give us an opportunity to deal with these changes,” he said.

The Hamas-dominated parliament came into being in 2006 after the Islamist group won a crushing electoral victory, but it has been largely non-functional since then.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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