- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 9, 2004

AUSTRALIA

Pre-election polls show dead heat

SYDNEY — Prime Minister John Howard and his Labor Party challenger were in a virtual tie as voting began today in parliamentary elections, with Australians focusing on the economy and social programs more than Mr. Howard’s decision to send troops to Iraq.

Mr. Howard is a strong U.S. ally who sent 2,000 troops to Iraq last year despite protests that portrayed him as a lackey of President Bush. Australia now has 900 military personnel in and around Iraq, though none in combat roles. No Australian soldiers have been killed.

The prime minister has vowed to keep Australian troops in Iraq until their work is completed.

PHILIPPINES

Big earthquake rattles capital

MANILA — An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.4 shook Manila yesterday, swaying high rises, knocking out power over a wide area and sending frightened residents into the streets. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

The shaking began at 10:36 p.m. and lasted for more than a minute. The epicenter of the quake was on Mindoro island, 55 miles south-southwest of Manila.

The temblor was felt over a wide area, including nearly 90 miles north of the sprawling capital on the main Philippine island of Luzon.

CAMBODIA

New king sought after Sihanouk

PHNOM PENH — Cambodian lawmakers approved legislation yesterday to create a search panel that will replace King Norodom Sihanouk, who threw his country into turmoil when he announced he will step down because of poor health.

Lawmakers voted unanimously to set up the nine-member throne council, charged with picking the royal successor. The panel will include Prime Minister Hun Sen, acting head of state Chea Sim, Prince Norodom Ranariddh and other leaders.

A vote of five out of the nine members is required to approve the new king, and the successor must be chosen within a period of seven days “after the king dies, retires or abdicates,” according to a draft of the legislation obtained by the Associated Press.

King Sihanouk, 81, announced his retirement on Thursday, citing his increasingly fragile health, and asked his country to select its future monarch.

FRANCE

Bomb damages Indonesia embassy

PARIS — A package filled with explosives blew up outside the Indonesian Embassy in Paris yesterday, slightly wounding nine persons in the first terror attack in the French capital in years. The motive was not clear.

French Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin said a “bomb of medium strength” exploded beneath the flag that hangs from a balcony at the embassy in Paris’ 16th district.

The blast ripped chunks of stone from an embassy wall, damaged several cars and left a small crater in front of the building. It shattered windows as high as the top fourth floor, carpeting the street with broken glass.

Most of the wounded were hurt by flying glass, Mr. de Villepin said. Three of the injured were embassy employees.

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