- The Washington Times - Monday, December 29, 2003

RUSSIA

Putin opens parliament session

MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin yesterday told the first parliament controlled by his supporters that it should serve as a model of democracy and improve Russian living standards.

Mr. Putin also exhorted the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, to reform education and the health care system, and help provide more affordable housing by encouraging the development of Russia’s embryonic mortgage system.

United Russia, a party that strongly supports Mr. Putin, won control of the legislature earlier this month in a vote driven in part by significant economic gains made during Mr. Putin’s four years in power.

SAUDI ARABIA

Police car explodes; no one injured

RIYADH — An unmarked police car exploded in the Saudi capital yesterday, but no casualties were reported, police said.

Nobody was in the car when it exploded in Riyadh’s eastern Al-Salaam district, and it was not known what caused the blast.

One officer said he heard a report on his police radio that a car sped by the parked vehicle and someone tossed an explosive toward it. A Western diplomat told the Associated Press that a Saudi police officer appeared to be the target of the blast.

Islamic extremists have detonated four car bombs in Riyadh this year, killing 52 persons.

PHILIPPINES

2 American brothers held in terror sweep

MANILA — Philippine authorities said yesterday they have arrested two American brothers for suspected links to terrorism.

Michael Ray Stubbs and his brother James, a convert to Islam, have been held at an undisclosed location since they were arrested earlier this month in the town of Tanza in Cavite province, 21 miles southwest of Manila, an immigration official said.

GUATEMALA

Ex-mayor wins presidential runoff

GUATEMALA CITY — The pro-business former mayor of Guatemala City parlayed his urban popularity to an easy victory in a presidential runoff, results showed yesterday, four years after he left politics and swore he would never come back.

Oscar Berger’s first promise after early results gave him an insurmountable lead was to put together “an honest team” and an austere budget.

He ran a campaign pledging an investment-friendly administration that will infuse capital into a sluggish economy and create thousands of jobs.

CYPRUS

Pro-U.N. plan party to form government

NICOSIA — Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash yesterday gave a mandate to form a government to the leader of a party that backs a U.N. plan to reunify Cyprus.

This month’s general election left parliament in the Turkish-controlled north evenly split between supporters and opponents of the U.N. plan.

NETHERLANDS

Letter bomb found at Europol office

AMSTERDAM — A letter bomb was intercepted yesterday at the Dutch headquarters of the European Union’s police agency, Europol, and was deactivated before it could cause any damage.

The letter bomb was the third sent to prominent EU figures or organizations in three days. European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet was sent a suspected letter bomb yesterday, and a parcel exploded in the hands of European Commission President Romano Prodi on Saturday.


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