- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2007

GREECE

Robot to search for missing tourists

ATHENS — Greek rescuers will deploy a robot submarine to search for the bodies of two French tourists believed to have drowned when a cruise ship sank off a resort island in the Aegean Sea last week, authorities said yesterday.

The ship’s captain has blamed Thursday’s accident on sea currents that swept the Sea Diamond onto a charted reef off the island of Santorini, tearing a hole in the ship’s hull. Nearly 1,600 people, mostly American tourists, were rescued before the vessel sank.

An oceanographic vessel is expected to arrive at the island today to deploy the unmanned sub in an attempt to locate the missing passengers and the ship’s voyage data recorder, the Merchant Marine Ministry said.

RUSSIA

Space tourist packs Stewart gourmet meal

KOROLYOV — U.S. space tourist Charles Simonyi arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) yesterday with a hamper of gourmet food to spice up his fellow cosmonauts’ space-food diet.

The capsule carrying Mr. Simonyi — who paid $25 million for his trip into orbit — and two Russian cosmonauts docked with the ISS two days after they lifted off from a Russian launch pad in the Central Asian steppe.

The gourmet food parcel was put together by Mr. Simonyi’s friend, U.S. lifestyle guru Martha Stewart, who saw him off from the launch pad in ex-Soviet Kazakhstan.

IRAN

Nuclear program moves ahead

NATANZ — Iran announced yesterday that it had begun industrial-scale nuclear fuel production in a fresh snub to the U.N. Security Council, which has imposed two rounds of sanctions on it for refusing to halt such work.

“I proudly announce that as of today Iran is among the countries which produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a gathering at the Natanz uranium-enrichment facility in central Iran.

Iran has used similar dramatic announcements of atomic progress in the past to strengthen its bargaining position with the West even though its nuclear work has been beset by technical glitches, analysts say.

NORTH KOREA

Nuclear deadline may be missed

TOKYO — The top U.S. negotiator with North Korea said yesterday it was becoming difficult for Pyongyang to meet a mid-April deadline to close a nuclear reactor, but Washington would not accept a partial shutdown.

Speaking to reporters in Tokyo, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill urged Pyongyang to implement a nuclear disarmament agreement regardless of a dispute over the transfer of frozen funds to North Korea.

ZIMBABWE

Bishops call Mugabe corrupt

HARARE — Zimbabwe’s Catholic bishops have accused President Robert Mugabe and his officials of running a bad and corrupt government and called for radical political reforms to avoid a revolt in the southern African state.

In a pastoral letter posted on church notice boards during the Easter weekend, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference said economic hardship and political repression had led to widespread anger, leaving the nation “in extreme danger.”

AFGHAN

Taliban threatens medical workers

KANDAHAR — The Taliban yesterday threatened to kill four Afghan medical personnel and their driver unless the government releases two Taliban commanders in a deal similar to the prisoner swap that won an Italian journalist’s freedom last month.

The threat came a day after the hard-line militia beheaded Ajmal Naqshbandi, an Afghan translator seized March 5 along with journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo of the Rome-based La Republicca newspaper, after authorities refused another prisoner exchange. Mr. Mastrogiacomo was freed March 19 in a swap for five imprisoned Taliban militants.

In the latest kidnappings, the Taliban said it seized a doctor, three nurses and their driver on March 27 in Kandahar province.

PAKISTAN

Bhutto denies talks with Musharraf

DUBAI — Exiled former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is not considering lending her support to embattled President Pervez Musharraf, the Emirati Khaleej Times newspaper reported yesterday.

Mrs. Bhutto assured her rival, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, at a recent meeting in the Gulf emirate that she was not holding any such talks with the Pakistani government, the newspaper said, quoting a top official from her party.

The report comes after Pakistani officials said Gen. Musharraf has been in negotiations to win the support of Mrs. Bhutto, now in exile in Dubai and London, and her opposition Pakistan People’s Party.

ETHIOPIA

Judge frees 25 journalists

ADDIS ABABA — An Ethiopian judge freed 25 journalists yesterday charged in a treason trial involving more than 100 opposition figures that has drawn international criticism as being politically motivated.

In a case that has outraged human rights groups, opposition leaders, journalists and civil society activists were charged in December 2005 with treason, inciting violence and attempting to commit genocide.

The charges followed two separate outbreaks of violence in which at least 80 persons were killed in clashes between protesters and security forces over 2005 general election results, which the opposition says were rigged.

VIETNAM

Mouse on plane delays departure

HANOI — A fugitive mouse delayed the departure of a Japan-bound airliner for more than four hours Sunday as technicians hunted down the potential threat, airline officials said.

A passenger spotted the white mouse running on the floor of the plane on an initial leg of the Vietnam Airlines flight, prompting a hunt by about a dozen technicians worried that it could chew through a vital wire.

The mouse was found in a food storage area and the Boeing 777 was cleared for takeoff, said Tran Tien Dung, head of the airline’s air safety department. Authorities killed the mouse.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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