- The Washington Times - Monday, January 26, 2004

PAKISTAN

Religious hard-liners protest detention

RAWALPINDI — Hundreds of religious hard-liners rallied yesterday in support of Pakistani nuclear scientists, denouncing their detention over charges that they sold nuclear technology to Iran.

Speakers railed against the government, saying it had caved in to pressure from abroad, including the United States, by leveling accusations against “national heroes” who helped produce the Muslim world’s first nuclear bomb.

Eight scientists and administrators from the Khan Research Laboratories are being held for questioning over nuclear-proliferation charges that surfaced after Iran made admissions to the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency.

SYRIA

Turkey’s diplomacy pleases Damascus

DAMASCUS — Syria yesterday welcomed an offer by Turkey’s leader to mediate between Israel and Syria in a bid to revive the countries’ peace negotiations.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the offer at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Saturday. “In a short while, our foreign minister will begin the diplomacy,” he was quoted as saying.

There was no immediate Israeli reaction to Mr. Erdogan’s offer, but Syrian Information Minister Ahmad al-Hassan said he hopes the Turkish leader can persuade Israel to “abandon its stubbornness.”

CUBA

Orthodox patriarch opens new church

HAVANA — President Fidel Castro, whose communist Cuba once was officially atheist, yesterday gave the key for a new Byzantine cathedral to the spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians.

Consecrating the new St. Nicholas Cathedral, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in turn honored Mr. Castro with the church’s Cross of St. Andrew the Apostle, which is given to supporters of the Orthodox faith.

Shortly before the gift exchange, the patriarch protested the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, which has lasted more than four decades.

INDONESIA

Outbreak of bird flu confined to chickens

JAKARTA — Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous nation, has confirmed a bird-flu outbreak among chickens but found no evidence that the disease has spread to humans, senior Agriculture Ministry officials said yesterday.

Indonesia previously said it was free of the flu and blamed the deaths of thousands of chickens in the past three months on Newcastle disease, a virus harmless to humans. An official said yesterday that 40 percent of the chickens had both diseases.

An outbreak of a highly infectious avian flu strain has killed six persons in Vietnam. Four cases have been confirmed in Thailand; one of them died yesterday. Millions of chickens have been slaughtered across Asia.

FRANCE

Eiffel Tower honor greets Hu Jintao

PARIS — France has turned the Eiffel Tower red as part of lavish Chinese new-year celebrations before a visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao that highlights the countries’ rapidly improving ties.

Red lights lit up the tower Saturday after a new year’s parade featuring jugglers, dancers and acrobats on the Champs-Elysees ahead of the three-day visit that will be dominated by ceremonial events but that both sides hope will spur trade.

Mr. Hu, who arrives today, is to address parliament and meet President Jacques Chirac, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin and French businessmen.


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