Sunday, December 24, 2006


Car bomb explodes in southern oil hub

PORT HARCOURT — A car bomb exploded outside a state government building in Nigeria’s southern oil hub yesterday, marking the first targeting of government installations by a militant group that has previously focused attacks on foreign oil companies.

The blast was the latest in a spree of assaults aimed at disrupting oil operations in the Niger River delta. Car bombs hit two foreign compounds Monday; gunmen killed three guards at two other facilities Thursday; and a water pipeline to a refinery was reported sabotaged late Friday.


Raul Castro slams inefficient economy

HAVANA — Acting President Raul Castro complained to lawmakers about inefficiencies in the island’s economy, telling them in comments made public yesterday that there is no excuse for the transportation and food production problems that anger many Cubans.

“In this revolution we are tired of excuses,” he said, giving the strongest sense yet of the frank and demanding leadership style he will likely adopt if his ailing older brother Fidel Castro does not return as president.

After almost five months in power, it has become clear that the 75-year-old Raul Castro will call officials to account for their actions and demand they produce results.


Bird flu strikes Nile delta region

CAIRO — Two Egyptians were hospitalized yesterday after testing positive for the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu in the central Nile delta region, the health ministry said.

The latest cases bring to 17 the total number of Egyptians infected, including seven who were killed by the virus.

The two Egyptians from the village of Hanut in the Gharbiya province contracted the disease after coming into contact with infected ducks they had been rearing in their homes, according to a ministry statement carried by the official MENA agency.

Egypt — the Arab world’s most populous state — is on a major route for migratory birds and has seen the third highest number of H5N1 cases after Indonesia and China, according to Dr. David Nabarro, the U.N. official charged with battling bird flu.


Retaliation threatened after talks deadlock

SEOUL — North Korea warned the United States yesterday of retaliation if it stepped up sanctions against the regime over the deadlock in last week’s nuclear disarmament talks, North and South Korean news reports said.

The North Korean army’s chief of staff warned of tough action if the United States intensified financial sanctions imposed last year and aimed at curbing money laundering by the reclusive regime.

The six-party negotiations, which resumed Monday after a break of 13 months and Pyongyang’s first atom bomb test in October, broke up on Friday, with envoys failing to persuade the state to talk about its nuclear weapons.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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