- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 12, 2008

SOUTH KOREA

Suspect held in icon arson

SEOUL — South Korean police said today they arrested a man who confessed to burning down a 600-year-old gate designated as the country’s top national treasure because he was angry about a compensation payment.

The stone-and-wood structure Namdaemun, or “Great South Gate,” was reduced to a charred hulk yesterday, with onlookers and newspaper editorials lamenting the loss of an iconic symbol of national pride.

The 69-year-old suspect was identified only by his family name, Chae, said Namdaemun police station Chief Kim Young-soo. Mr. Chae was taken into custody late yesterday and told police he had planned the arson for several months.

“The arsonist said he committed the crime out of anger because he felt the government did not take enough care with the appeal he filed after being insufficiently compensated for redevelopment in his residential area,” Chief Kim said.

SWITZERLAND

Art treasures stolen in massive heist

ZURICH — Three armed men in ski masks stole four paintings by Cezanne, Degas, van Gogh and Monet worth $163.2 million from a Zurich museum in one of Europe’s largest-ever art heists, police said yesterday.

The robbers, who were still at large, stole the paintings Sunday from the E.G. Buehrle Collection, one of Europe’s finest private museums for Impressionist and post-Impressionist art, police said.

It was the largest art robbery in Switzerland’s history and one of the biggest-ever in Europe, said Marco Cortesi, spokesman for the Zurich police. He likened it to the theft in 2004 of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” and “Madonna” from the Munch Museum in Norway.

A reward of about $90,000 was offered for information leading to the recovery of the paintings — Claude Monet’s “Poppy Field at Vetheuil,” Edgar Degas’ “Ludovic Lepic and his Daughter,” Vincent van Gogh’s “Blooming Chestnut Branches” and Paul Cezanne’s “Boy in the Red Waistcoat.”

FRANCE

Former Muslim seeks citizenship

PARIS — Former Dutch lawmaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the target of death threats over her criticism of radical Islam, said she has asked France to grant her citizenship because she cannot be assured of protection back home.

A prominent critic of Islam, Ms. Hirsi Ali wrote the screenplay of the film “Submission,” a fictional study of abused Muslim women.

The film’s director, Theo van Gogh, was killed by a Muslim extremist in Amsterdam in 2004.

UNITED NATIONS

Ban urges support of new climate pact

NEW YORK — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday urged nations to join private companies, civic groups and individuals this year in sustaining “the unprecedented momentum” to fight global warming.

“If 2007 was the year when climate change rose to the top of the global agenda, 2008 is the time we must take concerted action,” Mr. Ban said at the start of a two-day U.N. General Assembly debate to generate support for a new treaty by 2009 to fight global warming.

General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim invited U.N. member states, among others, to the United Nations to follow up December’s international climate conference.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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