Monday, October 25, 2004

AFGHANISTAN

Karzai clears hurdle in presidential count

KABUL — Hamid Karzai clinched a majority of the votes cast in Afghanistan’s first presidential election, near-complete results showed yesterday.

The president’s chief rival, former Education Minister Younus Qanooni, announced that he was willing to accept the election result as long as irregularities in the vote were acknowledged by foreign investigators.

Mr. Karzai had 4,240,041 votes, more than half of the estimated 8,129,935 valid votes cast on Oct. 9, election officials said. That ensures he has more than the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff.



IRAN

European proposal called ‘unbalanced’

TEHRAN — Iran called a European proposal seeking the indefinite suspension of the country’s nuclear activities “unbalanced,” but said yesterday that the Europeans made the right decision to engage in dialogue.

In talks Thursday in Vienna, Austria, envoys from Britain, France and Germany reportedly offered civilian nuclear technology and a trade deal to the Iranians in return for Tehran permanently giving up all uranium enrichment activities.

The three have warned that most European countries will back Washington’s call to refer Iran’s nuclear dossier to the U.N. Security Council for possible economic sanctions if Tehran does not give up all uranium enrichment activities by Nov. 25.

COLOMBIA

Government destroys state-owned land mines

BOGOTA — The armed forces blew up 6,800 stockpiled land mines yesterday as President Alvaro Uribe, Queen Noor of Jordan and dozens of mine blast victims watched on large screens.

The unprecedented act was aimed at underscoring Colombia’s commitment to destroying all state-owned mines, Mr. Uribe said, even though Marxist rebels who have battled the government for 40 years increasingly have used them.

“Be our ambassador, Queen Noor, and tell the world … that the Colombian government is destroying its mines,” Mr. Uribe said.

JAPAN

Earthquakes kill 21 in north

OJIYA — Tens of thousands of people huddled in emergency shelters yesterday after a series of earthquakes in northern Japan flattened homes, toppled bridges and derailed trains, killing at least 21 persons and injuring as many as 2,000. Eight persons are thought to be missing.

A 6.8-magnitude quake rocked the largely rural Niigata prefecture on Saturday evening, rattling buildings as far away as the Japanese capital. Several strong quakes followed through the night, and aftershocks continued to jolt the area yesterday.

KAZAKHSTAN

Space capsule lands with American aboard

ARKALYK — A Russian-U.S. crew returned to Earth from the International Space Station yesterday in a pinpoint landing on the Kazakhstan steppe, and NASA’s chief said the United States wanted to continue the joint relationship on future missions to Mars.

The bell-shaped Soyuz TMA-4, carrying Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Yuri Shargin and American astronaut Mike Fincke, parachuted down to the landing site at 4:36 a.m.

The return marked Mr. Padalka’s and Mr. Fincke’s first experience with gravity after a six-month stay on the orbital outpost. Search crews took just 14 minutes to reach the Soyuz capsule.

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