- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2008

FRANCE

Journalists face growing threats

PARIS — The number of reporters killed on the job has risen 244 percent over the past five years, largely because of the Iraq war, Reporters Without Borders said yesterday.

More than half of the 86 journalists killed worldwide last year died in Iraq, the Paris-based media watchdog said. In 2002, by comparison, 25 journalists were killed worldwide, and the number has risen steadily since, it said.

All but one of the 47 reporters killed in Iraq last year were Iraqi nationals. The only foreigner was a Russian journalist.

VATICAN CITY

Catholic-Muslim meeting planned

VATICAN CITY — A meeting between Catholics and Muslims is planned in Rome this spring to start a dialogue between the faiths after relations were soured by Pope Benedict XVI’s 2006 comments about Islam and holy war, Vatican officials said.

Benedict proposed the encounter as his official response to an open letter addressed to him and other Christian leaders in October by 138 Muslim scholars from around the world. The letter urged Christians and Muslims to develop their common ground of belief in one God.

The head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, told the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano over the weekend that three representatives of the scholars would come to Rome in February or March to prepare for the meeting.

CHINA

Sniffer dogs deployed in subway

BEIJING — Dogs that can detect fireworks and other explosive substances have started making regular checks at Beijing’s subway stations ahead of the Olympics, state press reported yesterday.

Xinhua news agency quoted Wang Ning of the detection detachment of the Beijing Traffic Police as saying the patrols will give the dogs experience for the Aug. 8-24 Olympics.

Eight dogs were patrolling five subway stations, including ones close to Tiananmen Square in central Beijing, he said. Up to 2.9 million people ride the subway daily.

CHILE

Volcano forces tourist evacuation

SANTIAGO — Hundreds of people fled their homes overnight yesterday as a volcano erupted in southern Chile, rocking the area with explosions and spewing lava and ash.

About 150 tourists and National Forest Service employees were evacuated from the surrounding Conguillio National Park, about 400 miles south of Santiago, and helicopters were prepared to pull out 53 others, said Chile’s Emergency Bureau director, Carmen Fernandez.

BRITAIN

Fire forces hospital evacuation

LONDON — A fire broke out on the top floor of a historic cancer hospital in West London yesterday, forcing the evacuation of patients, the fire brigade said.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Huge plumes of black smoke spewed from the roof of the Royal Marsden Hospital in Chelsea, the first dedicated cancer hospital in the world.

AUSTRALIA

Snake recovering from golf ball meal

BRISBANE — A snake was saved by surgery in Australia after mistaking four golf balls for a meal of chicken eggs, a veterinarian said yesterday.

A couple had placed the balls in their chicken coup in New South Wales state to encourage their hen to nest, the Australian Associated Press reported.

The balls disappeared, and the couple found a lumpy-looking carpet python nearby.

They took the 32-inch nonvenomous snake to the nearby Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, where veterinarian Michael Pyne operated to remove the balls from the snake’s intestine.

SPAIN

Socialists keep slim lead in polls

MADRID — Spain’s ruling Socialists enjoy a slim lead over the opposition conservatives ahead of a March general election, according to two polls released yesterday.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s party would win 42.5 percent of the vote if an election were held now compared with 39.7 percent for the Popular Party, a poll published in daily newspaper La Vanguardia found.

The opposition Socialists scored a surprise victory in a general election held shortly after the Madrid bombings in 2004 that claimed 191 lives.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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