- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 24, 2005

CHINA

U.S. draws criticism on Hong Kong

BEIJING — China reacted angrily yesterday to Washington’s support for early democracy in Hong Kong after limited electoral reforms were voted down by disaffected lawmakers.

Foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang expressed “strong dissatisfaction” after the United States backed the stance of pro-democracy legislators calling for a timetable for full democracy, according to Xinhua news agency.

He described the autonomous former British colony as “China’s Hong Kong” and told Washington not to interfere. The Hong Kong government also warned Washington against “meddling” in its affairs.

ISRAEL

Thousands join Hamas march

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Thousands of Hamas supporters marched in pouring rain in Gaza yesterday to protest against U.S. and EU criticism and pressure Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas not to delay elections.

Worried by the prospect of a strong Hamas showing in the Jan. 25 parliamentary vote, the European Union joined the U.S. House of Representatives this week in threatening to cut vital aid if the Islamic militant group wins.

Hamas is branded a terrorist group by Israel, the United States and European Union. It wants to eliminate the Jewish state and has spearheaded a suicide-bombing campaign.

SRI LANKA

Rebels hit navy bus, 13 sailors killed

COLOMBO — Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels ambushed and killed 13 Sri Lankan sailors in an attack on a naval bus in northern Sri Lanka yesterday in the worst breach of a 2002 cease-fire so far.

On Thursday, the rebels said three sailors were killed in a clash with the navy in the northern district of Mannar.

INDIA

Lawmakers expelled for taking bribes

NEW DELHI — India’s Parliament yesterday voted to expel 11 lawmakers caught taking bribes in a television channel’s sting operation.

The lower house voted to expel 10 lawmakers and the upper house threw out one member, the first time that body has expelled one of its own. The powerful lower house, or Lok Sabha, has not removed a member since 1951.

The legislators, belonging to parties across the political spectrum, were shown on the independent Aaj Tak television channel earlier this month accepting offers of bribes ranging from $325 to $2,400 in exchange for promises to raise more than 60 questions in Parliament.

AZERBAIJAN

Plane crashes with 23 on board

MOSCOW — An Azeri passenger plane with 23 persons on board crashed yesterday soon after takeoff from the Caucasus state’s capital, Baku, Russia’s RIA news agency reported.

RIA quoted the Azeri transport authority as saying that An-142 aircraft bound for the city of Aktau in Kazakhstan with 18 passengers and five crew disappeared from radar screens 20 minutes after takeoff. It was not clear if there were any survivors.

BULGARIA

Libya agrees on fund for HIV children

SOFIA — Bulgaria and Libya have agreed to set up a fund for families of Libyan children with HIV, as the international community tries to save five Bulgarian nurses sentenced to death for infecting youngsters with the virus.

The United States, Britain and the European Commission have all signed up to the fund, Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

Libya has sentenced five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor to death by firing squad, after convicting them of deliberately infecting 426 children with HIV in a hospital in the Mediterranean port of Benghazi. About 50 of the infected children have died.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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