World Briefs / Turkey requests Patriot missiles

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ANKARA, Turkey -- NATO is preparing to deploy Patriot missile batteries in Turkey for the first time in about a decade amid Turkish fears that Syria may launch a punitive missile attack against the country for backing Syrian rebels.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his country, an ally of Syria, opposes the deployment and on Friday discussed Turkey's plans to place Patriot batteries along the Syrian border with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

The Turkish government has called on Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down and allowed Syrian officers to command the rebel Free Syrian Army from a refugee camp inside Turkey.

Suicide attack kills 3

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A Taliban suicide bomber detonated a truck full of explosives Friday in eastern Afghanistan, killing three Afghan civilians and wounding more than 90 people, including several Afghan and NATO troops, officials said.

The early morning explosion in Maidan Shahr, the capital of Wardak province, also destroyed or damaged several government offices and a local prison, said provincial spokesman Shahidullah Shahid.

Pakistan cuts phone service

ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan's interior minister said Friday that the government will suspend cell phone service in most parts of the country over the next two days to prevent attacks against Shiite Muslims during a key religious commemoration.

Militants often detonate bombs using cell phones, and the Pakistani government has implemented similar service suspensions in the past, but not on such a wide scale.

Russia faulted on rights

GENEVA -- U.N. officials issued a scathing assessment of Russia's compliance with an international treaty against torture and cruel and degrading punishment, highlighting, among a number of "troubling trends," the increasing intimidation of people and organizations trying to monitor human rights.

The officials, members of the U.N. Committee Against Torture, said here Friday that they were seriously concerned about "numerous and consistent reports" of threats, reprisals and deaths of human rights defenders and journalists in Russia. They also said that legal amendments recently enacted by President Vladimir Putin "undermined" the U.N. convention.

China detains journalist

BEIJING -- A former journalist and his wife have been detained by security officers in China after he wrote online last week about five boys in Guizhou province who had died in a trash bin after taking shelter there from the cold, according to a lawyer and a friend of the ex-journalist.

The lawyer, Li Fangping, based in Beijing, said in a telephone interview that the ex-journalist, Li Yuanlong, who is not related to the lawyer, was picked up by security officers Wednesday.

Candidate drops out

SEOUL, South Korea -- The millionaire software mogul who was widely seen as a top contender for South Korea's presidential election in December unexpectedly withdrew his candidacy Friday, throwing his support behind the candidate of the main opposition party.

The move by the software mogul, Ahn Cheol-soo, has turned the Dec. 19 election into a close two-way race between Moon Jae-in, the candidate of the liberal opposition Democratic United Party, and Park Geun-hye, the nominee of the governing conservative Saenuri Party.

BBC scandal

LONDON -- Mark Thompson, the president and chief executive of The New York Times Co., testified Friday in a closed-door inquiry investigating why the British Broadcasting Corp. canceled a contentious report into sexual abuse, a Times spokesman said.

Mr. Thompson was the director general of the BBC in December, when the corporation's flagship "Newsnight" current affairs program canceled an investigation into accusations of abuse against television host Jimmy Savile, who had died two months earlier at the age of 84. Mr. Thompson assumed his new post at The New York Times on Nov. 12.

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