- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Rights groups oppose Islamic ban

NEW YORK — Three private rights groups yesterday urged U.N. negotiators to reject an effort from a bloc of Islamic states to ban blasphemy and religious defamation in the charter of a proposed human rights panel.

The three — U.N. Watch, Freedom House and the Italy-based Transnational Radical Party — said the language proposed by the Islamic nations would increase censorship and establish a justification for recent violent protests over Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad.

The groups also called on the leading democracies to play a more active role in the charter negotiations. The new panel will replace the discredited U.N. Human Rights Commission.


Militants announce more attacks

LAGOS — Militants holding nine foreign hostages in southern Nigeria destroyed an oil pipeline yesterday and blew up a boat in violence that has cut about 20 percent of crude production in Africa’s oil giant.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said it attacked a Shell-operated oil-pipeline switching station known as a “manifold” and a military houseboat in the oil-rich southern region. “Both were destroyed with explosives,” the group said in an e-mail.


6 quarantined as bird flu spreads

BOMBAY — India quarantined six persons in the hospital yesterday and began a door-to-door search for anyone with fever as authorities scrambled to contain the country’s first outbreak of bird flu.

Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said there were no human cases of avian flu in the country as officials in the remote district of Nandurbar in western Maharashtra state began door-to-door checks for people with fever and continued a mass cull of up to a half-million birds.

As bird flu continued its relentless march into the heart of Europe from Asia, at least 11 nations worldwide reported outbreaks in the past three weeks, an indication that the virus, which has killed at least 92 persons, is spreading faster.


Sounds detected at buried school

GUINSAUGON — Rescue workers refused to give up hope of finding survivors in an elementary school buried by up to 100 feet of mud, digging into the night yesterday after detecting what the provincial governor called “signs of life.”

Sounds of scratching and a rhythmic tapping were picked up by seismic sensors and sound-detection gear brought in by U.S. and Malaysian forces.

Still, it was difficult to imagine survivors under the muck nearly four days after a mountainside collapsed and covered the Philippine farming village of Guinsaugon, killing up to 1,000 people. The search has focused on the school because of unconfirmed reports that some of the 250 to 300 children and teachers may have sent cell phone text messages to relatives soon after the disaster Friday.


Conservatives get separatists’ support

OTTAWA — Canada’s minority Conservative government won crucial support yesterday from the separatist Bloc Quebecois, which said it would not try to trigger an election any time soon.

The Conservatives and the Bloc together have 176 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons, enough to survive without support from the other parties.

The Conservatives won power from the Liberals in the Jan. 23 election. The Liberals are in the middle of arranging for a party leadership race to replace former Prime Minister Paul Martin.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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