- - Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Italian police probe Vatican bank officials

Just when the Catholic Church doesn’t need another scandal, Italian authorities have seized $30.18 million from a Vatican bank account and begun investigating top officials of the Vatican bank in connection with a money-laundering probe.

The Vatican said Tuesday that it was “perplexed and surprised” by the investigation.

Italian financial police seized the money as a precaution Tuesday, and prosecutors placed the Vatican bank’s director general and its chairman — a man who speaks frequently about morality in financing — under investigation for suspected mistakes linked to violations of Italy’s laws against laundering, news reports said.

The probe is not the first time the bank — formally known as the Institute for Religious Works — has faced trouble. In the 1980s, it was involved in a major scandal that resulted in a banker found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London.

In a statement, the Vatican said it had been working for some time to make its finances more transparent to comply with regulations against terrorism and money laundering.


Pakistan to get 2 nuclear reactors

BEIJING | China on Tuesday gave its firmest government confirmation yet of plans to build two nuclear reactors for Pakistan, but a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said she did not know about talks over a bigger reactor deal.

Spokeswoman Jiang Yu said China plans to help Pakistan expand its Chashma nuclear energy complex in Punjab by building two reactors in addition to one already operating and another nearing completion.

Her comments suggested that Beijing may see no need to seek approval for the two new Chashma reactors from the Nuclear Suppliers Group, an international council of governments, some of whose members have voiced qualms about the deal.

“This project is based on an agreement signed between the two countries in 2003 about cooperation in the nuclear power field,” Ms. Jiang said at a regular news conference, citing plans to build the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors of about 300 megawatts each at Chashma.


U.S.-born cleric not in al Qaeda raid

SAN’A | The Yemeni army destroyed five homes suspected of hiding al Qaeda militants Tuesday as a siege of a southern village entered its second day, but officials denied reports that U.S.-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was among those surrounded.

Government forces have moved into the village of Hawta with tanks and armored vehicles. Thousands of people have fled the area to escape the fighting, which officials say is targeting a 120-man militant cell.

Troops also fired on vehicles of residents fleeing the village and another nearby trouble spot, the city of Lawder, killing two civilians and wounding three others, local government and medical officials said.

Security officials said the homes that were destroyed were empty. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to the media.


Christians tried for breaking Ramadan fast

AIN EL HAMMAM | Two Algerian Christians were tried on Tuesday for breaking Ramadan fasting rules, with hundreds of people protesting outside the courtroom against judicial authorities.

Hocine Hocini and Salem Fellak were arrested Aug. 13 on the building site where they worked in the northern region of Kabylie after they were spotted eating lunch, which they admit to doing but insist happened in a discreet place.

Muslims are not allowed to eat during daylight hours during the Ramadan holy month, and in Algeria breaking the fast can be punished with three months in jail.

“We are innocent, and we haven’t done any harm to anyone,” Mr. Hocini, who is a Protestant, said as he left the courtroom after the hearing. “We are Christians and we have not eaten in a public place.”

The verdict is due Oct. 5.

Hundreds of people supporting the two accused gathered outside the court and shouted slogans against the judiciary.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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