U.S. copter downed;bomber kills 2 GIs
KABUL/| Insurgents shot down a U.S. helicopter after exchanging fire with its crew in central Afghanistan on Monday, while a suicide bomber in the north killed two American soldiers inside a police station, officials said.
The crew of the helicopter, forced down in a province neighboring Kabul, were rescued and troops were “in the process of recovering the aircraft,” said Lt. Cmdr. Walter Matthews, a U.S. military spokesman.
“The helicopter crew exchanged fire with the enemy before the damage brought the helicopter down,” Cmdr. Matthews said.
At least four militants were killed in the exchange, said Fazel Karim Muslim, the chief of Sayed Abad district.
Nuclear inspectors blocked from sites
UNITED NATIONS | The U.N. nuclear chief said Monday that Iran is blocking his watchdog agency from verifying whether the nation has any ambitions for nuclear weaponry.
“I regret that we are still not in a position to achieve full clarity regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran,” Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the U.N. General Assembly.
He urged Iran to do more to ensure “transparency,” but emphasized the Vienna-based IAEA “does not in any way seek to pry into Iran’s conventional or missile-related military activities.”
Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee countered that the U.N. Security Council’s demand that his nation suspend uranium enrichment is “illegal.”
Government workers help drug traffickers
MEXICO CITY | Mexican prosecutors said Monday that employees of the federal attorney’s general’s office worked for a drug cartel, passing sensitive information to traffickers in the worst known case of drug infiltration of law enforcement in a decade.
The Mexico City newspaper El Universal reported on Monday that one cartel informant said he had infiltrated the U.S. Embassy.
It said the informant told Mexican prosecutors that he had worked as a “criminal investigator” at the embassy and that he had passed along information on U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration operations in Mexico. The embassy had no immediate comment on the report.
Lord’s Prayer tradition debated
CANBERRA | The speaker of Australia’s Parliament has called for a public debate about whether the country’s lawmakers should end the practice of starting each session with the Lord’s Prayer.
Lawmakers have started every day of Parliament with the Christian prayer for more than a century - a tradition inherited from Britain during colonial rule.
But some are now questioning whether a prayer adopted by the first Australian Parliament in 1901 remains relevant in an increasingly secular and religiously diverse nation.
Dumping the prayer is unlikely to happen anytime soon, though, because Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull said Sunday they wanted to keep the prayer.
More than 65 percent of Australians still identify themselves as Christians, and there are no Muslims or Aborigines among Australia’s 226 federal lawmakers.
President fires prime minister
TBILISI | Georgia’s president has dismissed his prime minister and recommended the country’s ambassador to Turkey as the replacement.
Mikhail Saakashvili made the announcement in a live television address late Monday. He did not immediately provide a reason for the move.
The outgoing prime minister, Vladimir Gurgenizde, was appointed in November after a series of anti-government protests. Mr. Saakashvili said Mr. Gurgenizde would now head a government finance commission.
Parliament must confirm the 35-year-old Grigol Mgaloblishvili, before the prime minister appointment can take effect.
Protesters stone United Nations
GOMA | Thousands of civilians threw rocks at four United Nations offices in eastern Congo on Monday, venting outrage at the organization’s inability to protect them from rebel forces advancing on the provincial capital of Goma.
Peacekeepers opened fire at one downtown office and people may have been injured, a U.N. official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
People in eastern Congo are angry that a 17,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force has been unable to protect them from a rebel attack just 25 miles north of the city. Tens of thousands of civilians have abandoned their homes.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Congolese soldiers pulled back Monday from the front in tanks, jeeps, trucks and on foot in what appeared to be a major retreat of government forces. Soldiers honked their horns angrily as they struggled to push through throngs of refugees pouring onto the main road.
NATO protects ship from pirates
NAIROBI, Kenya | NATO warships safely escorted a cargo of supplies through the pirate-infested waters off Somalia on Monday, and hijackers holding an arms-laden Ukrainian vessel said its operators do not want to negotiate for the weapons.
The NATO escort for a ship supplying African Union peacekeeping troops in Somalia was the first such mission for the alliance’s seven-ship flotilla, which arrived in the region over the weekend to conduct anti-piracy patrols and guard World Food Program aid shipments.
From wire dispatches and staff reports