- The Washington Times - Monday, November 23, 2009

ARMENIA

Progress reported in Azerbaijan talks

MUNICH | Mediators reported important progress at talks Sunday between Azerbaijan and Armenia on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but said difficulties were also identified as the Azeri leader threatened renewed war.

Tensions over the breakaway mountain region are rising, with oil-producing Azerbaijan angry at a deal between ally Turkey and Armenia to open their border, 16 years after Ankara closed it in solidarity with Azerbaijan during the Nagorno-Karabakh war.

Turkey says it will only go through with the deal if Armenia makes concessions on Nagorno-Karabakh, where ethnic Armenians backed by Christian Armenia broke away from Muslim Azerbaijan as the Soviet Union headed toward its 1991 collapse.

The rebel territory lies at the heart of the South Caucasus, a strategic crossroads and key transit region for oil and gas, where Russia and the West are vying for influence.

ROMANIA

Exit polls show runoff expected

BUCHAREST | Romanian President Traian Basescu and his Social Democrat rival Mircea Geoana will face a runoff as the two top vote-getters in Sunday’s presidential election, television exit polls showed.

Mr. Basescu is in the lead with 33.72 percent of votes cast, according to an exit poll by the CURS Institute for public television, followed closely by Mr. Geoana with 31.44 percent.

Another exit poll by the Insomar Institute for a private television station, Realitatea, put Mr. Basescu at 32.8 percent and Mr. Geoana at 31.7 percent.

The election is vital to solving a government crisis that has delayed aid from the International Monetary Fund and crucial for reviving stalled economic and political reforms in the Balkan state of 22 million people

BRITAIN

Clean up begins for flood-hit towns

LONDON | Cleanup efforts were under way Sunday in flood-hit towns after the heaviest downpours ever recorded in England, as fears mounted for a woman missing near a swollen river in Wales.

More than one foot of rain fell in 24 hours - the highest level since records began - over Cumbria as torrential rains swept across Britain and Ireland.

The Environment Agency said 65 flood warnings were in force across England and Wales, with four severe warnings in Cumbria in northwest England, the area hardest hit.

UKRAINE

Orange Revolution celebrations lacking

KIEV | Ukrainians turned out Sunday in Kiev to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Orange Revolution, amid disillusionment with political leaders and a severe economic crisis.

Several dozen people celebrated in the capital’s main square - a stark contrast to the tens of thousands who on Nov. 22, 2004, led protests that prompted the cancellation of rigged election results.

But hopes of prosperity have been set back by the economic crisis, which saw the national currency lose 40 percent of its value and aspirations of political stability undermined by bickering national leaders.

NORTHERN IRELAND

IRA rebels plant 400-pound bomb

DUBLIN | Irish Republican Army dissidents left a 400-pound car bomb outside police reform headquarters in Belfast, but the homemade device failed to detonate, Northern Ireland’s police commander said Sunday.

As politicians warned of a rising threat from IRA diehards, four other suspected IRA dissidents were arrested Sunday after a gun attack on police.

Chief Constable Matt Baggott said Saturday night’s attempted bombing of the Northern Ireland Policing Board office in Belfast’s docklands represented an attack on the province’s peace process.

The explosives-laden car caught on fire but didn’t explode and caused no damage to the Policing Board building, where a cross-community panel oversees police operations.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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