- The Washington Times - Friday, April 30, 2010

RUSSIA

Official optimistic on U.S. adoption talks

MOSCOW | A Russian official said Thursday he was optimistic about ending a bitter row with the U.S. over adoptions, after talks with a U.S. delegation in Moscow.

Pavel Astakhov, special presidential envoy for children’s rights, said he expected a new U.S.-Russian adoption agreement, which Moscow demanded after it froze adoptions by U.S. families earlier this month.

Russian officials held talks with a U.S. delegation aimed at defusing a row sparked by the case of an American woman who sent her adopted 7-year-old son back to Russia.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

President delays May 16 vote

BANGUI | President Francois Bozize said Thursday that elections scheduled for May 16 have been delayed.

Mr. Bozize made the announcement on state radio after meeting with political party chiefs, including opposition leaders.

They insisted that the country was not ready to hold the presidential vote because rebels have not been disarmed and voter registration lists are not complete.

No new date for the vote has been announced.

IRAQ

Ballot recount will take weeks

BAGHDAD | Recounting all the ballots from the key Baghdad province will take two to three weeks, Iraq’s election commission said Thursday, further delaying the formation of a long-awaited new government.

Since Iraq’s landmark parliamentary elections on March 7, the country’s political factions have been wrestling over the results of the close-fought contest. But little progress has been made toward forming a new government, prompting fears that the political instability could open the way for renewed violence just as U.S. combat forces prepare to leave.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite coalition lost by two seats to former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s bloc. Mr. al-Maliki has challenged the results, claiming fraud and issuing a flurry of appeals for recounts.

CANADA

Ex-base commander faces 82 more charges

TORONTO | Police have laid an additional 82 burglary-related charges against a former Canadian military commander who once flew Queen Elizabeth II and other dignitaries around Canada.

Col. Russell Williams was the commander of Canada’s largest air force base until he was charged in February with the murders of two women, including one under his command, and the sexual assault of two others.

The new charges were announced shortly before Col. Williams was to appear in an Ontario court via video on the murder and sexual assault charges.

SIERRA LEONE

U.S. gives $7.5 million for war crimes trial

FREETOWN | The United States is giving an additional $7.5 million to help pay for Charles Taylor’s war crimes trial.

The U.S. ambassador at large for war crimes issues, Stephen Rapp, made the announcement Thursday in Sierra Leone’s capital.

Mr. Taylor, the former president of neighboring Liberia, is accused of funding Sierra Leonean rebels infamous for hacking off the lips, ears and limbs of their victims. Mr. Taylor has denied the charges.

BULGARIA

Police seize huge haul of heroin precursor

SOFIA | Bulgarian police on Thursday seized a record 8 tons of a key chemical that could be used to make about $6 million worth of heroin, the Interior Ministry said.

Aided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, police made the seizure of acetic anhydride in a house outside Sofia, a ministry statement said.

Researchers estimate that 1 ton of acetic anhydride makes about 882 pounds of heroin. The black market price for 2.2 pounds of heroin is about $15,000, the ministry said.

MEXICO

Indians want apology after prison release

MEXICO CITY | Two Indian women freed by Mexico’s Supreme Court for lack of evidence after spending almost four years in prison on kidnapping charges demanded a public apology Thursday.

Otomi Indians Alberta Alcantara Juan and Teresa Gonzalez Cornelio, whose case drew international outrage, said that if Mexico wants to repair the damage, the very least that officials should do is recognize and acknowledge the mistake.

A federal government spokesman said no apology would be forthcoming.

The women were arrested in 2006 during a raid at a traditional market in a central Mexican town. Six federal investigators searching for pirated items said unarmed vendors chased them down, trapped them and demanded a ransom.

The vendors said they staged a protest after police began breaking up their stalls but that they did not hold any officers against their will.

Three women were initially convicted and sentenced to 21 years in prison on charges of kidnapping the six agents. Critics, including Amnesty International, said prosecutors fabricated evidence.

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