World briefs: 1/16/10

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North Korea may halt talks

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea, denouncing South Korea for drawing up a contingency plan to deal with the potential collapse of the North's government, warned yesterday that it would cut off all dialogue with the South and exclude it from all negotiations concerning the security of the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea will also wage a "pan-national holy war of retaliation to blow away" the South Korean government, said a statement from the North's highest ruling agency, the National Defense Commission, which is headed by the national leader, Kim Jong Il.

The threat was surprising less for its stridency, which is not unusual in diatribes against the South and the United States, than for its timing. Only minutes before North Korea's official news agency broadcast the statement, South Korea had announced that the North Korean Red Cross had accepted 10,000 tons of food aid offered by its South Korean counterpart.

Rockets strike Kabal

KABUL -- A rocket slammed into a Kabul district housing several embassies yesterday, the latest in a series of attacks in the Afghan capital despite heavy security measures.

No casualties were reported in the nighttime blast, which occurred in the Wazir Akbar Khan district that includes the German, Japanese and British embassies. Police said the rocket landed on a sidestreet.

Meanwhile, as of yesterday, at least 878 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan as a result of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to an Associated Press count.

Pope's visit divides Jews

ROME -- Pope Benedict XVI's planned visit to Rome's main synagogue tomorrow has sharply divided Italian Jews, with some angered by his moves to push World War II Pope Pius XII toward sainthood.

Some Jews and historians have accused Pius of not doing enough to stop the Holocaust.

A top rabbi and at least one other prominent community member have announced they will not attend the synagogue visit in protest.

Meanwhile, Benedict yesterday defended his decision to invite disaffected Anglicans to join the Catholic Church by saying it is the "ultimate aim" of ecumenism.

The Vatican in October announced it was making it easier for traditional Anglicans upset over women priests and gay bishops to join the Catholic Church while retaining many of their Anglican traditions, including married priests.

Russia OKs court overhaul

MOSCOW -- Russian lawmakers yesterday ended years of resistance and ratified an international agreement intended to strengthen and speed up the work of the European Court of Human Rights.

The decision marked a change in the position of the Kremlin-controlled State Duma, which had rejected the document in 2006, fearing it could be used by the West to punish Russia.

The 392-56 vote follows President Dmitry Medvedev's call on parliament to review the issue and appears to reflect the Kremlin's desire to improve chilly ties with the Council of Europe, the continent's top rights body.

Police halt gay pageant

BEIJING -- Police shut down what would have been China's first gay pageant yesterday an hour before it was set to begin, highlighting the enduring sensitivity surrounding homosexuality and the struggle by gays to find mainstream acceptance.

Organizers said they were not surprised when eight police officers turned up at the upscale club in central Beijing where the pageant, featuring a fashion show and a host in drag, was set to take place.

"They said the content, meaning homosexuality, there's nothing wrong with that, but you did not do things according to procedures," Ben Zhang said. Police told him he needed official approval for events that included performances, in this case a stage show.

-- Compiled from news services


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