- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 24, 2010

CHINA

Communist Party issues ethics code

BEIJING | The Chinese Communist Party issued a new code of ethics Tuesday as the country’s fight against widespread corruption intensifies, the party’s Central Committee announced.

The warning to party officials against abusing their power came just days before the start of the annual National People’s Congress, which brings about 3,000 delegates from across the country to Beijing. The majority are party members.

The ethics code warns party members of 52 “unacceptable practices,” including taking cash as a gift, using their power to benefit family members, being involved in for-profit activities and using public money for personal interests, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported. It said the code replaces one introduced on a trial basis in 1997.

NETHERLANDS

Elections set for June 9

AMSTERDAM | The Dutch government on Tuesday set June 9 as the date for general elections, nearly one year ahead of schedule, following the collapse of the center-right government in a dispute over the army’s engagement in Afghanistan.

Queen Beatrix, the ceremonial head of state, accepted the resignation of 12 Cabinet officers from the Labor Party who quit the coalition on Saturday when the left-leaning party refused to comply with a NATO request to keep Dutch troops in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan.

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende will remain in office as head of a minority government until the elections and can deal with issues that cannot be delayed, the queen’s office said.

HAITI

Last 2 Americans to be freed

PORT-AU-PRINCE | Two U.S. missionaries still held in Haiti on child kidnapping charges are expected to be freed this week, the judge hearing their case said Tuesday.

“We haven’t found anything that could suggest wrongdoing on the part of the Americans,” the investigative judge, Bernard Sainvil, told Reuters news agency. “I think they could be released this week,” he added, speaking after questioning Laura Silsby and Charisa Coulter in a Port-au-Prince courtroom.

Ten Americans, most members of a Baptist church in Idaho, were arrested last month on charges that they tried to take 33 Haitian children out of the country without proper documentation after the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti.

MALI

Al Qaeda releases Frenchman in swap

BAMAKO | Al Qaeda’s North African wing released French hostage Pierre Camatte, Mali’s government said Tuesday, in an apparent prisoner swap that has angered neighbors Algeria and Mauritania.

Mr. Camatte’s release follows that of four Islamist prisoners by Mali last week. Al Qaeda had threatened to kill Mr. Camatte unless the four were released by Feb. 22.

Algeria and Mauritania, where al Qaeda cells also operate, recalled their ambassadors to protest the prisoner swap. Algerian media said two of the freed men were Algerian, and the Mauritanian government said one was Mauritanian.

MEXICO

Summit creates bloc without U.S.

PLAYA DEL CARMEN | Leaders of 32 nations agreed Tuesday to create a new regional bloc including every country in the Americas except Canada and the United States, a show of unity marred when the Venezuelan and Colombian presidents hurled insults at each other.

Honduras, which was not invited to the conference because of last year’s coup, could join eventually.

The new organization will defend democracy and human rights and foster cooperation among Latin American and Caribbean countries, said Mexican President Felipe Calderon, the host of the Grupo de Rio summit at a resort in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Few details of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States have been worked out, and its formation is expected to take years. The leaders disagree on whether the bloc should replace the Washington-based Organization of American States, the largest diplomatic bloc in Western Hemisphere, which has been heavily influenced by the United States.

Conservative Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and Venezuela’s leftist Hugo Chavez, whose relations have long been testy, gave a taste of the sort of disputes the new bloc will have to tackle, clashing over trade sanctions.

CHINA

Schools told to shun Oxfam

BEIJING | China is telling schools to sever all ties with the international relief agency Oxfam and bar its campus recruitment efforts, accusing the group’s Hong Kong branch of having a hidden political agenda.

Oxfam Hong Kong — which oversees the group’s mainland China operations — is a “nongovernmental organization seeking to infiltrate our interior,” according to a notice attributed to the Education Ministry seen Tuesday on a job services Web site hosted by Beijing’s Minzu University.

Oxfam Hong Kong’s China Unit Director Howard Liu said the agency has never done anything to challenge Beijing’s policies or laws and is only interested in alleviating poverty. He added that the notice appears to refer specifically to an internship program that places social work majors from Chinese universities at NGOs.

TURKEY

17 killed in mine collapse

ANKARA | A methane gas explosion caused an underground chamber in a coal mine in northwestern Turkey to collapse Tuesday, killing 17 workers, the governor said. It was the second deadly explosion at the mine in four years.

The blast near the town of Dursunbey in Balikesir province buried the miners 820 feet below the surface, said the mine’s owner, Erhan Ortakoylu.

Rescue work was called off after 29 workers were evacuated, said Gov. Yilmaz Arslan of Bursa province.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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