- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 1, 2009


3 U.S. tourists stray into Iran

SULAIMANIYAH | The U.S. State Department said Friday it is investigating reports that three Americans have been detained by Iranians after wandering near the border in the self-ruled Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

Two Kurdish officials said the three Americans apparently were arrested after entering Iranian territory without permission. One security official said the missing Americans were tourists on an outing.

The official said the three contacted a colleague Friday and said “they had mistakenly entered Iranian territory and troops surrounded them.” State Department spokesman Robert Wood said the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is “aware of the report and is investigating.”


Communist Party postpones congress

HAVANA | Cuban President Raul Castro has postponed what was to have been the ruling Communist Party’s first congress in 12 years, saying it may be the last under the aging “historic leadership of the revolution” and must be done right, state-run media reported Friday.

Mr. Castro said the party has to carefully analyze economic matters to determine “what must be perfected and even eliminated” as Cuba moves into the future without him or brother Fidel Castro at the helm, according to the newspaper Granma.

The congress, where direction is set for the country’s future, was expected to take place at the end of this year. No new date has been set. The congress has been heavily anticipated because, among other things, it will determine if Fidel Castro, 82, stays on as head of the party.

Raul Castro, 78, replaced Fidel Castro as president last year, but the elder Mr. Castro has held on to the leadership of the Communist Party, the only legal political party on the island.


Ex-President Aquino dies at 76

MANILA | Former President Corazon Aquino, who swept away a dictator and then sustained democracy by fighting off seven coup attempts in six years, has died, her family said Friday. She was 76.

Her “people power” revolt in 1986 ended the repressive 20-year regime of Ferdinand Marcos and inspired nonviolent protests across the globe, including those that ended Communist rule in Eastern Europe.


Court orders arrest in Bhopal gas leak

NEW DELHI | An Indian court issued a warrant Friday for the arrest of the former head of the American chemical company responsible for a gas leak that killed at least 10,000 people in Bhopal 25 years ago.

Warren Anderson was the head of Union Carbide Corp. when its factory in the central Indian city leaked 40 tons of poisonous gas on Dec. 3, 1984 - the world’s worst industrial disaster.

On Friday, in response to a recent appeal by a victims’ group, Bhopal’s Chief Judicial Magistrate Prakash Mohan Tiwari ordered the arrest of Mr. Anderson, who is reportedly living in the U.S.

Mr. Anderson was arrested immediately after the disaster, but he left the country soon after. The Indian government has since said that it did not know his whereabouts, but CNN-IBN television recently reported he is in the Hamptons area outside New York City.


Quakers agree to gay marriages

LONDON | British Quakers agreed Friday to celebrate gay marriages and called on the government to recognize same-sex unions as legally valid.

At the religious group’s yearly meeting in York in northern England, the Quakers in Britain said they would ask the government to change the law to allow them to register same-sex marriages in the same way as heterosexual ones.

Gay-rights campaigners said it was a “trail-blazing decision” after the issue of homosexual unions had opened deep divisions in other faiths.

Since 2005, same-sex couples in Britain have been able to enter into civil partnerships, which, while giving gay relationships legal status, are not considered marriages.

Quakers, who formed in the 17th century and are formally known as the Religious Society of Friends, have acknowledged gay partnerships since the 1960s.


High court keeps gay-marriage ban

LISBON | Portugal’s Constitutional Court on Friday upheld the country’s ban on gay marriage, rejecting a challenge by two lesbians who are seeking to wed.

The court said its five judges ruled 3-2 against an appeal lodged by the women two years ago.

Teresa Pires and Helena Paixao, divorced mothers in their 30s who have been together as a couple since 2003, were turned away by a Lisbon registry office when they attempted to marry in 2006 because the law stipulates that marriage is between people of different genders.


Abortion drug RU-486 approved

ROME | Italy has approved the use of the abortion drug RU-486, drawing fierce protests by the Vatican.

The drug, which terminates pregnancy by causing the embryo to detach from the uterine wall, is already available in several other European countries. But approval in Italy had been held up by the Catholic Church, which opposes abortion and contraception.

The Italian Drug Agency ruled after a meeting that ended late Thursday that the drug cannot be sold in drug stores but can only be administered by doctors in a hospital.

The agency said the pill can only be taken up to the seventh week of pregnancy, and not up to the ninth as is the case in other countries.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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