- - Tuesday, June 26, 2012

BETHLEHEM — Visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin praised his Palestinian counterpart Tuesday for what he said was a “responsible” position in negotiations with Israel, frozen for nearly four years, and said Russia has no problem recognizing a Palestinian state.

Mr. Putin also offered veiled criticism of Israel, saying unilateral actions - an apparent reference to Israeli settlement construction on war-won land - are not constructive.

The Russian president spoke at the end of a visit to the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by his side.

Mr. Putin inaugurated a Russian cultural and language center in Bethlehem and toured the church built over the traditional birth grotto of Jesus.


Number of Haitians displaced by quake is falling

PORT-AU-PRINCE — The number of people living in the precarious settlements that became glaring symbols of the Haitian earthquake’s devastation has dropped to fewer than 400,000 for the first time since the January 2010 disaster, according to an aid group’s report released Tuesday.

The International Organization for Migration said there are now 390,276 people living in the precarious settlements that were erected in the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake.

This figure is down from the high of some 1.5 million people who were staying in the camps six months after the quake. It is also a drop of 7 percent from April.

The reduction in the camp population is attributed to a combination of forced removals, rental subsidies and voluntary departures, but it is not clear where the bulk of the people have gone or if their living arrangements are better than the camp conditions.


U.S. couple detained for trying to adopt

ACCRA — An American couple, who used their popular blog to chronicle their journey to adopt four children from Ghana, was detained by Ghanaian authorities and forced to spend a night in detention as they tried to take the children back to the U.S., according to officials.

Sol and Christine Moghadam from Irvine, Calif., were traveling with their two biological children as well as the four adopted siblings, who are originally from the Ghanaian city of Kumasi.

They were stopped Friday at Kotoka International Airport after the government received a phone call from an anonymous tipster who accused them of child trafficking, according to a statement posted on the website of AdoptTogether, an advocacy group that produced a video of the couple’s adoption process.

On their blog and in a video created on their behalf, the couple and their friends say Ms. Moghadam was forced to spend a night in jail Friday, while Mr. Moghadam was held in a detention center. Their two biological children were placed in an orphanage.

As of Tuesday, they still had not been allowed to leave the country. Their biological children had been returned to them, but the four adopted siblings were still at the orphanage, said Frank Kwofie, director of operations of the police’s criminal investigations department.


Iraq backs off on closing media outlets

BAGHDAD — Iraq has suspended orders to close 44 media operations in the country, including the BBC and Voice of America, after an outcry by press freedom advocates, an official said Tuesday.

The Communications and Media Commission, which regulates the news media in Iraq, will give the targeted groups more time to pay outstanding fees and renew lapsed licenses, Deputy Director Ali Nasir said.

The commission denied that its previous order to close the agencies, most of them Iraqi, represented a crackdown on a free press. No media outlets were known to have been shut down.

The order was issued last month but made public only this week.

The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory welcomed the reprieve on Tuesday, but Director Ziyad al-Aajely said media licensing is still too difficult and fees are too high.


Government hit by fresh resignation

ATHENS — A second Greek Cabinet member has resigned in two days, the latest casualty for the financially struggling country’s new conservative-led government.

Giorgos Vernicos, deputy minister for Greece’s merchant marine ministry, announced his resignation Tuesday and it was accepted by the government.

He did not immediately give a reason for his departure. But the main opposition Syriza party had accused him of maintaining an offshore company in what appeared to be a conflict of interest for a member of government.

On Monday, the designated finance minister resigned because of illness.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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