Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Assad will talk, but warns U.S.

MOSCOW — Syrian President Bashar Assad said yesterday that he was ready for dialogue with the United States, but he warned Washington against giving Damascus orders.

Mr. Assad, wrapping up a visit to Russian President Vladimir Putin, told reporters, “You have to differentiate between dialogue and giving instructions.”

The Syrian leader denied Israeli press reports that Syria had sent secret proposals to Israel calling for talks on the disputed Golan Heights and offering help on releasing an Israeli soldier captured by the militant Palestinian group Hamas.


Prime minister to push constitution change

TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said yesterday he wants to pass legislation next year that would allow a national referendum on changing Japan’s pacifist constitution.

Mr. Abe, in a speech marking the end of this year’s parliamentary session, also said he aimed to amend the constitution during his term in office.

The U.S.-drafted constitution, which bars Japan from warfare overseas, has never been amended since taking effect in 1947.


Late leader faulted in bribery probe

DUBLIN — The late Irish Prime Minister Charles Haughey took favors and bribes worth millions of dollars during his years in and out of the country’s top office from the 1970’s to the 1990s, a long-running investigation concluded yesterday.

The investigation, begun in 1997, said Mr. Haughey, who died in June at the age of 80, accepted cash from wealthy businessmen to fund a lavish existence at a time when Ireland was suffering economic hardship and Mr. Haughey himself was urging austerity.


Threat targets U.S. Embassy

SAN SALVADOR — The U.S. Embassy in El Salvador was evacuated yesterday after receiving a bomb threat, the embassy said. A spokesman said police were inside the building.

Several streets were closed to traffic in the residential zone around the embassy, and visa applicants and other visitors said services had been suspended.

El Salvador is one of the Washington’s strongest allies in Latin America and supports the U.S.-led coalition at war in Iraq with a small contingent of troops.


Adoption rules bar single, obese parents

BEIJING — China is imposing new restrictions on foreign adoptions, barring applicants who are unmarried, obese, over 50 or who take antidepressants, according to U.S. adoption agencies.

The restrictions are meant to limit adoptions to “only the most qualified families,” said the Web site of one agency, Harrah’s Adoption International Mission in Spring, Texas. The agency said China has pledged to try to make more children available to those who qualify.


Government toughens child-marriage ban

NEW DELHI — India tightened laws against child marriage yesterday, with priests, police or local leaders facing jail and fines if they permit the widespread but illegal practice.

Child-rights activists say the average age of marriage has been rising slowly over the past two decades, but government studies show 65 percent of girls are married before 18.

Early marriage contributes to high rates of maternal mortality, with one woman dying every seven minutes in India from a pregnancy-related cause.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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