- - Monday, June 20, 2011


At least 44 killed in passenger jet crash

MOSCOW | At least 44 people were killed when a passenger jet crashed late Monday in northwestern Russia, news agencies said.

RIA Novosti and ITAR-Tass, citing Emergencies Ministry officials, reported that the RusAir plane crashed on a highway en route from Moscow to the city of Petrozavodsk. They reported eight people who survived the crash were hospitalized in critical condition.

The Interfax news agency quoted the airport director, Alexei Kuzmitsky, as saying there were “unfavorable weather conditions.”

Russian news agencies said the plane crashed on its final approach to the airport.

The plane was a Russian-made Tu-134 jet, the Emergencies Ministry said, carrying 52 people, nine of whom were crew, the news agencies said. They said Russian Premier League soccer referee Vladimir Pettay was among the victims. News agencies reported a Swedish victim along with Russians.


Ex-leader, wife guilty of embezzlement

TUNIS | Tunisia’s former president and his wife were convicted in absentia on embezzlement and other charges on Monday after $27 million in jewels and public funds were found in one of his palaces.

Five months after being forced from power, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, 74, and Leila Trabelsi were sentenced to 35 years each in prison and fined tens of millions of dollars in the first of what is sure to be a long string of trials.

With Ben Ali not present for his judgment, there was a sense of frustration among many. The couple went into exile on Jan. 14 in Saudi Arabia, which failed to respond to an extradition request. 


China’s Hu makes rare visit to Ukraine

KIEV — Chinese President Hu Jintao on Monday made a rare visit to Ukraine, signing a strategic-partnership declaration to revive a relationship that fell into neglect in recent years.

Mr. Hu met President Viktor Yanukovych for talks in Kiev. Afterwards, the two heads of state signed the strategic-partnership declaration and agreed to economic-cooperation deals worth about $3.5 billion, officials said.

“This is a historic breakthrough in Ukrainian-Chinese relations,” Mr. Yanukovych told reporters at a news conference with Mr. Hu.

These included a deal for China to extend a $1 billion loan to Ukraine to build a rail link between Kiev and its airport, Boryspil, in a project expected to involve Chinese companies.

A memorandum of understanding for cooperation in the energy sector also was signed, as well as an agreement for China to extend $12 million in financial aid to Ukraine.


Khartoum, south withdraw from Abyei

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Leaders from Sudan and Southern Sudan signed an agreement on Monday to demilitarize the disputed central region of Abyei and allow an Ethiopian peacekeeping force to move in, said a former South African president who is helping lead peace talks.

Thabo Mbeki said Monday’s agreement provides for the full demilitarization of Abyei, a fertile land near major oil fields that both north and south claim as their own.

Troops from Sudan moved into the region last month, action that sent tens of thousands of people who are aligned with the south fleeing.

“The Sudan armed forces will pull out and will be deployed outside Abyei,” said Mr. Mbeki, who helped lead the talks in neighboring Ethiopia.

An Ethiopian peacekeeping force that is ready to deploy will move in as soon as possible, Mr. Mbeki said. The U.N. Security Council will decide at a meeting in New York what the mandate and size of the Ethiopian force will be, he said.


U.N. official: Keep borders open for refugees

ROME — The U.N. refugee chief on Monday urged all countries to keep their borders open and offer protection to refugees fleeing violence since “new crises multiply and old crises never end.”

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres spoke after some European nations including Italy have shown resistance to opening their doors to people feeling unrest and violence across North Africa and the Middle East.

Mr. Guterres spoke of an “impression” seeded across Europe that all refugees were coming to the continent. But, he said, “it’s simply not true that refugees are moving massively to the north.”

A report released Monday by UNHCR said four-fifths of the world’s 15.4 million refugees are hosted by developing countries.


British Library, Google in deal to digitize books

LONDON — A treatise on a stuffed hippopotamus, an 18th-century English primer for Danish sailors and a description of the first engine-driven submarine are among 250,000 books to be made available online in a deal between Google and the British Library.

The agreement, announced Monday, will let Internet users read, search, download and copy thousands of texts published between 1700 and 1870.

It is a small step toward the library’s goal of making the bulk of its 14 million books and 1 million periodicals available in digital form by 2020.

“So far we have only been able to digitize quite a small fraction of the global collection,” said the library’s chief executive, Lynne Brindley. “There is a long way to go.”

The deal with Google, which will see 40 million pages digitized over the next three years, will offer online researchers a selection of rarely seen works from an era of social, political, scientific and technological change that took in the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and the American war of independence.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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