- - Monday, September 27, 2010

JAPAN

Japan demands China pull boats from islands

TOKYO | Japan demanded Monday that China pull back two patrol boats from a disputed island chain that is at the center of the worst diplomatic row in years between the Asian giants.

Tokyo also summoned Beijing’s ambassador to demand consular access to four Japanese whom China detained last week for purportedly filming a military facility.

The latest developments came days after Japan freed a Chinese fishing boat captain, a move that failed to ease the escalating tensions and was met by China with a demand for an apology from its traditional Asian rival.

The dispute was sparked Sept. 8, when Japan’s coast guard arrested the skipper on suspicion of intentionally ramming two of its patrol vessels in a chase near the disputed islands.

KOSOVO

President resigns after court ruling

PRISTINA | Fatmir Sejdiu, who led Kosovo to declare independence from Serbia in 2008, stepped down as its president Monday after a court ruling that he acted unconstitutionally.

The Constitutional Court of Kosovo ruled Friday that Mr. Sejdiu violated the constitution by keeping his post as leader of his Democratic League of Kosovo while in office.

The resignation of the president is a blow to Kosovo, which is due to start talks with Serbia about issues following its declaration of independence in 2008.

So far 69 nations, including the U.S. and most European Union members, have recognized the declaration.

CHINA

Petition joins call for Nobel for dissident

BEIJING | More than 120 scholars, writers and lawyers in China have issued a call for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to be awarded to a Chinese intellectual jailed after penning a bold call for political reform.

The petition circulating on the Internet in support of Liu Xiaobo follows a similar appeal last week by former Czech President Vaclav Havel and other leaders of that country’s “Velvet Revolution.”

Mr. Liu, a 54-year-old writer and former professor, was sentenced to 11 years in prison in December on subversion charges, a year after he co-authored “Charter 08.”

The manifesto for political reform in China was modeled after “Charter 77,” the 1977 document authored by Mr. Havel and other Czech democracy leaders that provided a rallying cry for their peaceful revolution 12 years later.

ROMANIA

Government in uproar amid austerity protests

BUCHAREST | The Romanian government was in an uproar Monday over austerity protests — the interior minister resigned, the opposition demanded the prime minister go as well, and top police officials held emergency talks with the president.

The chaos reflected social fallout from the sharp wage cuts, tax increases and other austerity measures the government has taken to fight its budget deficit amid a deep recession.

President Traian Basescu’s government has been unable to pay wages and pensions without a $26 billion bailout loan last year from the International Monetary Fund and other lenders, and the IMF is demanding strong action now to trim Romania’s national debt.

PAKISTAN

Court orders probe of graft

ISLAMABAD | Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Monday again ordered the government to ask Swiss authorities to reopen a money-laundering case against the president, raising the stakes in a case that has triggered speculation over the future of the Western-backed administration.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry told government lawyers they must fully implement a December court order striking down an amnesty protecting President Asif Ali Zardari and hundreds of other officials from prosecution on long-shelved graft cases.

The government has been accused of dragging its feet since the order was issued because it means exposing the president and several of his political allies to possible corruption charges.

IRAQ

Kurdish rebels deny raid by Iranians

SULAIMANIYAH | Kurdish rebels fighting Iran’s government from bases across the border in Iraq denied Monday that Iranian forces carried out a cross-border raid.

Iran’s state television reported Sunday that Revolutionary Guard forces crossed into Iraq and killed 30 fighters from a group involved in a deadly bomb attack last week at a military parade in northwestern Iran.

A spokesman for Iranian Kurdish rebels based in Iraq’s Qandil Mountains said Monday there have been no recent battles with Iranian forces, though there was some Iranian artillery shelling late Sunday on four border villages that injured one civilian.

NIGERIA

Flood ruins crops; food remains scarce

GUDINCHIN | Floodwaters that rushed through rural Jigawa state now cover about 34 square miles of farmland in northern Nigeria.

As the sun begins to slowly dry the fields, all the farmers have are ruined stalks and dying plants — the latest strain on food in a region where other nearby countries face serious shortages.

The floods have come at the worst possible time — just before harvest — when it is too late for farmers to replant their fields of millet, sorghum and cowpea, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

SUDAN

Sudanese call for monitoring of vote

UNITED NATIONS | Sudan urged the international community on Monday to support and monitor the referendum on the independence of the south of the country that may split Africa’s largest nation in two.

The Jan. 9 vote must be held “without any coercion … and in an atmosphere of integrity and transparency,” Second Vice President Ali Osman Taha told the annual summit of world leaders at the United Nations.

A 2005 peace agreement that ended a bloody 21-year civil war between Sudan’s mostly Muslim north and predominantly animist and Christian south

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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