- The Washington Times - Monday, August 4, 2008


South Ossetia evacuates children

TBILISI | The breakaway republic of South Ossetia began sending hundreds of children across the border to its Russian ally Sunday amid increasing violence between the republic and Georgian government forces.

South Ossetia has sought closer ties to Russia as it distances itself from Georgia.

Russia, which maintains a large peacekeeping contingent in the breakaway province, said Sunday that the situation in South Ossetia remains explosive. The Foreign Ministry in Moscow said the threat of all-out war is “increasingly real.”

Irina Gagloyeva, a spokeswoman for the separatist South Ossetian government, said more than 1,000 children had been evacuated by midday Sunday.

The children are being bused to Vladikavkaz, the capital of Russia’s North Ossetia province, where local authorities will care for them, Miss Gagloyeva said.

Russia’s NTV showed a large crowd of parents and children in a parking lot in Tskhinvali, South Ossetia’s main city, before the buses departed for North Ossetia.

Shota Utiashvili, a spokesman for Georgia’s Interior Ministry, said the situation was relatively calm overnight, though the two sides exchanged sporadic automatic-weapons fire.


Cold War bunker opens for tours

PRENDEN | Nearly 19 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the huge and elaborate bunker where communist East Germany’s leadership would have sought shelter from a nuclear strike has opened to the public.

The bunker - known by the military code name 17/5001 - was built between 1978 and 1983 under a pine forest about 30 miles north of Berlin.

“At the time it was built, it was the most elaborate Warsaw Pact protective structure outside the Soviet Union,” Hannes Hensel of the Berlin Bunker Network, a private group now in charge of the facility, said before the first public tours Saturday.

The divided Germany was on the front line of the Cold War between nuclear-armed Soviet bloc and Western powers.

The bunker has a concrete ceiling up to 12 1/2 feet thick and reaches as far as 98 feet underground. The three-story structure - designed to absorb the shock waves from a nuclear explosion - has about 300 rooms and was meant to take up to 400 people.

It contains working space for East German leader Erich Honecker, communications equipment now covered with mold, dormitories, a medical facility with a room for operations, and five large pressurized air tanks.

The bunker, designed to accommodate the East German leadership for 14 days, is only a few minutes’ drive from the top leaders’ secluded Wandlitz residential compound.


Pope sends Olympic greeting

BRESSANONE | Pope Benedict XVI sent greetings to China on Sunday before the Olympics and said he hoped the games would offer an example of coexistence among people from different countries.

He said he will follow the Olympics, which open Friday, with a sense of “deep friendship” and hopes the sports can represent “a pledge of brotherhood and peace among people.”

Benedict spoke during the traditional Angelus prayer in Bressanone, a town in the Italian Alps where he is vacationing.

“I follow with deep friendship this great sporting event - the most important and awaited on a world level - and I wish that it offers the international community a valid example of coexistence among people of different background in the respect of common dignity,” the pope told the faithful gathered in Bressanone.

Benedict sent his greetings to China, organizers of the games and the athletes, expressing hope that “each can give their best in the true Olympic spirit.”

Benedict has made the improvement of relations with Beijing a priority of his papacy.

China’s officially atheistic Communist Party forced Chinese Catholics to cut ties with the Vatican in 1951, and the two sides have not restored formal relations. Beijing sees the Vatican tradition of the pope naming his own bishops as interference in the country.

China appoints bishops for the state-sanctioned Catholic Church. Still, many of the country’s estimated 12 million Catholics worship in congregations outside the state-approved church and often are arrested or harassed.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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