- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 28, 2009

RUSSIA

Sabotage feared in deadly train crash

MOSCOW | At least 22 people were killed and 54 injured Friday when a train traveling between the Russian capital Moscow and St. Petersburg derailed, possibly a result of an attack, Russian media reported.

Four cars of the Nevski Express linking the two cities came off the tracks late Friday evening in the Novgorod region, a railway official told the Ria-Novosti news agency.

Russia’s state-run ITAR-Tass news agency quoted the emergencies ministry and a railway official as saying that 22 people were dead and 54 others injured.

An unnamed security official was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that a 3-foot-wide crater was found near the scene of the disaster.

A railway official also told ITAR-Tass that “an attack is one of the possibilities” being looked at by the police.

In 2007, a bomb on the same line derailed a train, injuring 60 passengers, with Chechen separatist or ultra-nationalist groups suspected.

CUBA

Military drill prepares for U.S. invasion

HAVANA | Cuba began its biggest military maneuvers in five years Thursday, saying they were needed to prepare for a possible invasion by the United States.

Despite a thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations and assurances last week by President Obama that the United States has no intention of invading the island 90 miles from Florida, Cuba’s state-run press quoted military leaders as saying there “exists a real possibility of a military aggression against Cuba.”

The three-day war games, called “Bastion 2009,” will last until Saturday. Cuban television showed images of tanks firing their guns as they rolled through the countryside, artillery batteries blasting away, camouflaged troops digging trenches and shooting bazookas, attack helicopters and fighter jets buzzing through the sky and rescue teams tending mock wounded combatants.

IRAN

Norway admonished on Nobel medal row

TEHRAN | Iran summoned Norway’s ambassador Friday and said the country had no right to criticize the Islamic republic for confiscating Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi’s medal.

In Norway, where the peace prize is awarded, the government said the confiscation of the gold medal was a shocking first in the history of the 108-year-old prize.

Mrs. Ebadi said Thursday that authorities took her 2003 Nobel Peace medal about three weeks ago from a safe-deposit box in Iran, claiming she owed taxes on the $1.3 million she was awarded. Mrs. Ebadi says such prizes are exempt from taxation under Iranian law.

PAKISTAN

Anti-Taliban figure killed in bombing

KHAR | A key anti-Taliban tribal leader was assassinated Friday in a roadside bombing, the latest in a series of attacks against pro-government militias in the Afghan border area of northwestern Pakistan.

Tribal elder Shahfur Khan was returning to his home in Badan village in Bajur tribal region to receive guests after prayers marking the start of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim feast of sacrifice, when the roadside bomb exploded, killing him and wounding three other people, local officials said.

Elsewhere, authorities found the bullet-riddled body of another tribal elder who was seized from his home late Thursday in an attack that also left his son dead.

Violence has increased in Bajur and other northwestern tribal regions since the army launched an offensive in South Waziristan in mid-October.

AFGHANISTAN

3 Ukrainians die in helicopter crash

KABUL | Three Ukrainians were killed when a helicopter operated by an international military contractor crashed in eastern Afghanistan.

The owner and operator of the aircraft said Friday that the three crew members were the only passengers aboard the MI-8 chopper that disappeared Nov. 23.

The wreckage was discovered Friday during a joint search mission between NATO and the company. The helicopter had been chartered by Supreme Global Service Solutions for a cargo mission in support of NATO troops.

FRANCE

25 deals signed during Putin visit

RAMBOUILLET | Russian businesses and the government signed at least 25 agreements with French companies, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced Friday, proclaiming “a real breakthrough” in economic relations between the two nations.

French electricity giant EDF will join Russia’s Gazprom in supporting the South Stream gas pipeline under the Black Sea, and energy utility GDF Suez announced progress Friday in taking part in the North Stream pipeline.

Both pipelines compete with Nabucco, a proposed pipeline backed by the United States and the European Union that would bring natural gas to Europe from the Caspian Sea region, competing with Russian gas supplies.

POLAND

Communist symbols banned

WARSAW | Poland’s president has approved legislation that allows for people to be fined or even imprisoned for possessing or buying communist symbols, two decades after communist rule ended.

The new law says that people who possess, purchase or spread items or recordings containing communist symbols could be fined or imprisoned for up two years.

The new law has drawn criticism from left-wing lawmakers and other observers who say it is ill-defined and will be hard to implement. The law does not list the banned symbols and it also exempts from punishment their use for artistic, educational or collectors’ purposes.

ITALY

Judges set Dec. 4 for Berlusconi trial

MILAN | A new panel of judges will formally open Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s bribery trial on Dec. 4, more than a year after it was frozen by a now-defunct immunity law.

“I am confident that if we have a new, impartial judge, Berlusconi will be acquitted,” the prime minister’s defense attorney, Niccolo Ghedini, told reporters after a brief hearing Friday to restart the trial.

The three judges who convicted Mr. Berlusconi’s co-defendant, British attorney David Mills, of accepting a $600,000 bribe to lie to protect the media mogul-turned-politician set the hearing date after the immunity law was thrown out last month.

Mr. Berlusconi is accused of ordering the 1997 payment to Mills in exchange for his false testimony at two hearings in other corruption cases. Mr. Berlusconi denies wrongdoing.

Last month, an appeals court upheld the conviction against Mills and confirmed his 4 1/2-year sentence.

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