- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Rio Tinto officials admit to bribery

SHANGHAI | Four employees of mining giant Rio Tinto pleaded guilty Monday to taking bribes, lawyers and an Australian diplomat said, in an embarrassing case seen as part of a harsh new attitude toward foreign business in China.

Rio Tinto is one of China’s top providers of iron ore and a key industry negotiator in commodity price talks with the government. The accused include a Rio Tinto executive who was arrested along with three employees last year during fractious annual negotiations over iron ore prices.

The admissions of bribe taking — although no details of the allegations have been released — are a blow for Rio Tinto at a time when it is striving to restore good relations with China. The four also face charges of stealing commercial secrets, and verdicts in the trial could take weeks.

Stern Hu, an Australian national, was Rio Tinto’s top executive in charge of iron ore for China when arrested. The lawyers said Mr. Hu and the three Chinese nationals — Liu Caikui, Ge Minqiang and Wang Yong — pleaded guilty but disputed the amounts they were accused of accepting.


Plot to bomb Western targets foiled

ISLAMABAD | Pakistani police have foiled a plot to blow up a restaurant in Islamabad’s diplomatic enclave that is frequented by foreigners, and government buildings, a police official said Monday.

Militants tied to Qari Hussain, known as the Taliban’s “mentor of suicide bombers,” were arrested before they could attack the Serena Hotel and the French Club restaurant in the heavily guarded diplomatic zone, said Bani Amin Khan, Islamabad’s acting police chief.

Police said they arrested two militants and seized a suicide jacket and pistol from their possession. The said the militants had planned to carry out attacks on government buildings on Tuesday, Pakistan’s National Day. The targets included courts and a telecommunications office.


Nuke scientist under suspicion

ISLAMABAD | Pakistan wants to investigate a disgraced scientist on charges of transferring nuclear secrets to Iraq and Iran, a government lawyer said Monday.

The petition by the Pakistan government for court permission to investigate Abdul Qadeer Khan comes days before the opening of strategic talks between the U.S. and Pakistan, at which Islamabad will likely ask for a civilian nuclear deal similar to the one between India and the United States.

The petition was filed in the Lahore High Court after two articles in The Washington Post, published on March 10 and 14, reported that the Pakistani nuclear scientist had tried to help Iran and Iraq develop nuclear weapons, government lawyer Naveed Inayat Malik said.


Sarkozy shakes up Cabinet after vote losses

PARIS | President Nicolas Sarkozy dismissed his labor minister and reshuffled several other Cabinet posts Monday after leftists walloped his conservatives in France’s regional elections — a defeat that exposed his inability to sway the public to his economic reforms.

Labor Minister Xavier Darcos lost his job after being soundly defeated in his election bid in the western Aquitaine region. Twenty of Mr. Sarkozy’s Cabinet members ran for regional posts, and all lost. Budget Minister Eric Woerth stepped in for Mr. Darcos, the presidency said.

The election blowout Sunday could hand a new opening to Mr. Sarkozy’s potential presidential rivals — from IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn in the Socialist camp to former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin on the right. It also puts the onus on Mr. Sarkozy to lift public opinion before the next presidential race in 2012.


Six face probe in church sex abuse

REGENSBURG | Four priests and two nuns in the Regensburg Diocese are under investigation for sexual abuse allegations, the diocese said Monday, as a wider picture began to emerge of incidents decades ago in the pope’s native Bavaria.

Diocese spokesman Clemens Neck said that since allegations first surfaced earlier this month, the church has been pursuing the cases with the goals of achieving justice and help for the victims, punishing the offenders and preventing future crimes.

In addition to the six now under investigation, Mr. Neck said there were two new charges of sexual abuse of a minor by a man identified as Friedrich Z. who was already convicted of abuse charges in 1958, and one new charge against a Georg Z. who was convicted in 1969.


Maryland scientist wins Water Prize

STOCKHOLM | U.S. scientist Rita Colwell has won the $150,000 Stockholm Water Prize for her research on the prevention of cholera and other waterborne diseases.

Ms. Colwell, 76, is a professor at the University of Maryland and at Johns Hopkins University, and a former director of the National Science Foundation.

The Stockholm Water Institute said Monday her research had defined the ecology of infectious diseases and “helped protect the health and lives of millions.” It highlighted Ms. Colwell’s work to prevent the spread of cholera. She will receive the prize in Stockholm on Sept. 9.


Former president’s grandson held

TEHRAN | Iranian authorities detained the grandson of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the most powerful opposition supporter inside the country’s clerical leadership, a news agency reported Monday.

Hasan Lahouti was arrested at Tehran airport upon arrival from London late Sunday, the semiofficial Fars News Agency said. It did not give a reason for his detention.

Mr. Rafsanjani has come under harsh criticism from hard-liners for his support of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi in his challenge to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who the opposition says won June elections by fraud. Mr. Rafsanjani, who served as president in the early 1990s, heads a clerical political council that has the power to chose the country’s supreme leader.

Mr. Lahouti’s mother, Faezeh — Mr. Rafsanjani’s youngest daughter — has also been a prominent participant in opposition protests since the election.


7 policemen jailed for 2008 killings

LUANDA | Seven Angolan policemen were sentenced to 24 years each in jail Monday for the murder of eight men in a poor neighborhood, in what analysts said was a key step forward in a drive to end widespread police brutality.

Judge Salomao Filipe said the trial had shown that the policemen ordered a group of young men in Luanda’s crime-ridden Sambizanga neighborhood to lie face down and then shot them at point-blank range in July 2008.

The shooting occurred during a police operation aimed at ending gang violence, but the judge said there was no evidence that the accused had been ordered to carry out the killings.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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