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World digest

World digest

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Communists win parliamentary majority

CHISINAU, Moldova - Moldova's ruling Communist Party, once allied with Russia but now favoring closer ties to the European Union, on Monday won a parliamentary majority in national elections, but fell short of taking enough seats to ensure re-election of President Vladimir Voronin.

The elections held Sunday have raised tensions between Moldova and Russia, which fears it is losing influence in the former Soviet republics after the election of pro-Western leaders in Georgia and Ukraine last year.

The Communists have led the country since 2001 through four years of economic growth, but Moldova remains Europe's poorest country.

Formerly pro-Russian, the party fell out with Moscow in 2003 over the future of the Russian-speaking Trans-Dniester region, a sliver of land along Moldova's border with Ukraine.

China angered by U.S.-Japan 'interference'

BEIJING - China has strongly objected to the joint security agreement recently announced by Japan and the United States, which has listed "a peaceful resolution of issues on the Taiwan Strait” as a common strategic goal for the first time.

It is also likely to further cool Beijing's relations with Japan in particular, which is embroiled in a territorial dispute with China over the Senkaku Islands - called Daioyu in China.

Japanese and U.S. foreign and defense officials held the "two-plus-two” meeting and announced revisions to the Japan-U.S. security alliance on Feb. 19.

Peace opens roads in southern Sudan

WAU, Sudan - Thirteen years after they were separated by the war in southern Sudan, Paul Baleo has found his parents and his brother. All that time they were living just 150 miles away.

"When we met, there was no talking. It was only tears and tears. Tears kept on rolling," the 20-year-old mechanic said.

All across southern Sudan people are on the move now that peace has made it possible for them to travel freely again. Many are searching for relatives they lost touch with during the 21-year war, which officially ended last month with the ratification of a Jan. 9 accord between the government and separatist rebels.

Iran confirms uranium plant underground

NATANZ, Iran - An Iranian official confirmed Monday a uranium enrichment plant in central Iran is underground as a protection against airstrikes, but insisted that is not a sign the program aims to produce nuclear weapons.

U.S. officials have said building nuclear facilities underground is inconsistent with Iran's contention its atomic program is intended only for the generation of electricity. The Iranians deny Washington's accusation that they are trying to build nuclear weapons.

Ali Akbar Salehi, a nuclear affairs adviser to the foreign minister, said U.S. and Israeli threats forced Iran to take precautions to protect its technology, including the string of centrifuges used to enrich uranium - a process that can produce fuel for nuclear reactors that generate electricity but also make material suitable for atomic warheads.

Vatican expects pope back home in 2 weeks

VATICAN CITY - Pope John Paul II probably will return to the Vatican by Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week leading to Easter, giving him up to 13 more days in the hospital to fully recover from throat surgery and to regain use of his voice, the Vatican said Monday.

A new medical bulletin said the 84-year-old pontiff's condition continues to improve, but it gave no date for his discharge from the hospital, where he was rushed Feb. 24 with his second breathing crisis in a month.

However, papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls told reporters John Paul will be back by Palm Sunday, which falls on March 20, although how he will participate in the Easter rites must still be decided.

Nigerian police find children packed in truck

LAGOS, Nigeria - Police found dozens of dusty, exhausted children - some as young as 1 - packed into a fishmonger's truck during a routine search in Nigeria's capital, and a suspected child-trafficker claimed their parents consented to hiring them out as servants, authorities said Monday.

The suspect, Fatima Baba, told police she brought the 52 children from Makwa town in northern Nigeria's Niger state to hire them out as domestic servants, Lagos state police spokesman Ademola Adebayo said.

Child-trafficking is an Africa-wide problem, and a police spokesman in the capital, Abuja, said authorities were investigating whether there were plans to sell some children into slavery.

"According to her, she would get a fee for hiring out the children," Adebayo said, adding that police were checking Baba's claim that the children's families had agreed to the arrangement and would be paid when the children returned after a year's work.

Five of the children were between the ages of 1 and 5. The oldest were 14.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran on Sunday described a blackout at its underground Natanz atomic facility an act of “nuclear terrorism,” raising regional tensions as world powers and Tehran continue to negotiate over its tattered nuclear deal.

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