- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 26, 2004

HUNGARY

Rich businessman named prime minister

BUDAPEST — The ruling Socialist Party chose one of Hungary’s richest businessmen yesterday to become the new prime minister, resolving a split with a smaller party that had threatened to undo the center-left governing coalition.

Ferenc Gyurcsany, a centrist reformer who was sports minister, still must be formally approved as head of government by parliament, where the Socialists and the liberal Alliance of Free Democrats hold a narrow majority.

Mr. Gyurcsany replaces Peter Medgyessy, who announced last week that he was stepping down as prime minister after losing the parliamentary support of the Free Democrats.

BELARUS

Money laundering for Saddam denied

MINSK — Infobank, a privately owned bank in Belarus, yesterday denied U.S. charges that it had laundered funds for the former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein, saying it has followed international agreements “to the letter.”

The U.S. Treasury said Tuesday that Infobank “laundered funds for the former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein that were derived from schemes to circumvent the United Nations oil-for-food program” and moved to cut them off from the U.S. banking system.

Infobank said it thought the U.S. Treasury had acted prematurely.

VATICAN CITY

Pope returns icon to Russian church

VATICAN CITY — Pope John Paul II, aiming to improve ties with Russia’s Orthodox Church and pave the way for a papal trip, sent an icon dear to Russians back to Moscow yesterday after nearly a century in the West.

At an elaborate ceremony in the Vatican augmented with Byzantine chants used in the Russian church, the pope gave the icon of the “Mother of God of Kazan” to a delegation that will take it to Russia tomorrow after public veneration in Rome.

The traditional Byzantine gold and wood icon, which depicts the Madonna and Child, is a venerated 17th- or 18th-century copy of the original 16th-century image, which has been lost. The icon was thought to have been smuggled out of Russia in the early 20th century.

CANADA

Hostage taker fatally shot

TORONTO — Toronto police fatally shot a man who was holding a woman hostage in the city’s business core yesterday, ending a standoff that brought morning rush-hour traffic to a standstill.

Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino said that efforts to negotiate with the armed man did not work and that police had no choice but to shoot after the man brandished a gun at the woman and police several times. The hostage was not injured.

BANGLADESH

General strike endswithout violence

DHAKA — A two-day general strike called after the killing of a Bangladeshi opposition politician in a grenade attack ended yesterday without major violence as thousands of mourners attended her funeral.

Ivy Rahman, chief of the women’s wing of the main opposition Awami League and a veteran grass-roots leader, died Tuesday, three days after she lost her legs in a grenade attack on a rally that she was attending.

Besides Mrs. Rahman, at least 18 persons were killed and more than 150 people wounded when grenades exploded as former Prime Minister Sheik Hasina finished addressing thousands of supporters of her Awami League party on Saturday.

VENEZUELA

Chavez ready to meet Bush

CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his government are ready to meet President Bush and U.S. administration officials to try to improve relations following Mr. Chavez’s referendum win, Venezuela’s Foreign Minister said yesterday.

Mr. Jesus Perez told reporters the Venezuelan leader, whose victory in the Aug. 15 recall poll renewed his mandate to rule, would travel to the United States next month to attend the annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly.

GREAT BRITAIN

‘Blade Runner’ voted best sci-fi film ever

LONDON — “Blade Runner” by British director Ridley Scott is the best science-fiction film ever made, according to a poll of 60 of the world’s top scientists to be published today.

The 1982 movie topped a Guardian newspaper poll of scientists, including British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and Canadian-born psychologist Steven Pinker.

In the film, a retired police officer, played by Harrison Ford, hunts down renegade human replicants amid a dark futuristic vision of Los Angeles.

Stephen Minger, stem-cell biologist at King’s College in London, said “Blade Runner” was the best he had seen.


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