- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 28, 2010

RUSSIA

Duma bill ups powers of KGB successor

MOSCOW | Russia’s Kremlin-loyal parliament is considering a bill that would increase the power of the Federal Security Service and restore practices once associated with its Soviet predecessor, the KGB.

The legislation would allow security officers to summon individuals for informal talks and issue written warnings about “inadmissible” participation in anti-government activities such as protest rallies. The warnings would be considered “obligatory,” and those who failed to follow them could face fines or 15 days in jail.

The government-drafted bill, submitted Saturday as part of an effort to combat extremism, also appeared aimed at tightening control over the media.

An explanatory note for the bill said some news organizations “propagate the cult of individualism, violence and mistrust in the government’s capacity to protect its citizens, virtually drawing the youth to extremism.”

Journalists who refuse to follow the demands of security officers or prevent them from fulfilling their duties could face charges under the legislation.

INDIA

India arrests diplomat, accuses her of spying

NEW DELHI | A diplomat working in the Indian embassy in Islamabad has been arrested for spying for Pakistan in a security breach set to heighten mistrust between the estranged neighbors, officials said Tuesday.

Madhuri Gupta, a 53-year-old junior diplomat working in the information service of the embassy, was called back to New Delhi last week on the pretext of consultations before police swooped on her at home.

Ms. Gupta, a second secretary in the embassy, was arrested on charges of breaching the official secrets act, which carries a minimum 10-year jail term, a senior police source told AFP.

“We have reason to believe that an official in the High Commission of India in Islamabad had been passing information to the Pakistani intelligence agencies,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash told reporters.

“The official is cooperating with our investigations and inquiries,” he said in a statement made on the sidelines of a regional conference in Bhutan, where the prime ministers of India and Pakistan were set to hold talks.

The proposed meeting between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, on the sidelines of the two-day summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, is seen as part of the long process of building trust.

India broke off all dialogue with Pakistan after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed at least 166 people and which New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

NORWAY

Russia, Norway agree on undersea border

OSLO | In a surprise move, Norway and Russia agreed Tuesday to evenly divide a long-disputed area in the Barents Sea, a promising oil-and-gas region in the Arctic made more accessible by global warming.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said only technical details remain to be worked out before a deal can be signed delimiting the border, ending negotiations that have dragged on for decades. Such an agreement also would have to pass the two countries’ legislatures.

NATO member Norway and Russia failed to agree on a maritime border in the Barents Sea during the Cold War and couldn’t reach a deal despite several attempts after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

About 90 billion barrels of oil and one-third of the world’s undiscovered natural gas lie hidden in the Arctic region, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates. Both Mr. Medvedev and Mr. Stoltenberg noted that the latest agreement would promote cooperation between the two countries’ energy sectors.

TUNISIA

Journalist freed after 6 months in prison

TUNIS | A prominent Tunisian journalist who had criticized his government was freed Tuesday after serving a six-month prison sentence.

Taoufik Ben Brik, who had written stories critical of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali for French media, was convicted last year on assault charges that his lawyer and media watchdog Reporters Without Borders say were trumped up.

Mr. Ben Brik told France-Info radio shortly after his release that he was deprived of pen, paper and books while behind bars in what he described as a “prehistoric prison,” where detention conditions were “worse than in the movies.”

He said he was jailed for writing an article called “The Poet and the Dictator” and pledged he would continue to write about Mr. Ben Ali.

ITALY

Veteran mobster boss arrested in Rome

ROME | A veteran mobster was arrested after 17 years on the run, but scores of people applauded Tuesday as he was escorted out of the police barracks and taken to jail.

Giovanni Tegano, a member of the ‘Ndrangheta organized crime group, was on the list of Italy’s top 30 most wanted fugitives. Officials described the 70-year-old as a notorious figure in the crime-ridden area and hailed his arrest as a tough blow to the ‘Ndrangheta, a crime syndicate based in the poor region of Calabria.

The ‘Ndrangheta, linked to crime around the world, is considered more powerful than the Sicilian Mafia.

Mr. Tegano is regarded as one of the few remaining mobsters of the ‘Ndrangheta’s old guard. He was implicated in a turf war in the mid-1980s that left scores dead, and for that he has been convicted to life in jail.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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