World briefs: S. Korea sends satellite aloft

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SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea launched a satellite into space from its own soil for the first time Wednesday amid increased tensions after archrival North Korea accomplished a similar feat and was condemned by the United Nations.

The South Korean rocket blasted off from a launch pad in the southwestern coastal village of Goheung. Science officials told cheering spectators minutes later that the rocket delivered an observational satellite into orbit. Officials expected to know today whether the satellite is operating as intended.

The launch is a culmination of years of efforts by South Korea -- Asia's fourth-largest economy -- to advance its space program and cement its standing as a technology powerhouse whose semiconductors, smartphones and automobiles command global demand. North Korea's long-range rocket program, in contrast, has generated international fears that it is getting closer to developing nuclear missiles capable of striking the U.S.

Club owner spreads blame

SANTA MARIA, Brazil -- The owner of a nightclub in southern Brazil where more than 230 people died in a fire last weekend deflected blame to "the whole country," as well as to architects and inspectors charged with making sure the building was safe, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Attorney Jader Marques said his client, Elissandro Spohr, "regretted having ever been born" because of his grief over the fire, but still blamed Sunday's tragedy on "a succession of errors made by the whole country."

The blaze also claimed another life late Tuesday, raising the death toll to 235.

Vietnam frees U.S. activist

HANOI, Vietnam -- Vietnamese authorities on Wednesday released and deported an American pro-democracy activist detained since April, a move that contrasts with the long prison terms given to Vietnamese activists who are members of the same U.S.-based dissident group.

The release of Nguyen Quoc Quan came after U.S. diplomatic pressure and removes an obvious thorn in relations between the former enemies. Both countries are trying to strengthen their ties in large part because of shared concerns over China's emerging military and economic might, but American concerns over human rights are complicating this.

Suspected terrorists killed

KARACHI, Pakistan -- A bomb blast killed three suspected militants in Pakistan's largest city Wednesday as they were carrying out preparations for a deadly attack, police said.

The suspected militants were attempting to put the bomb in the trunk of a taxi when it went off, said senior police officer Aleem Jafri. The device exploded accidentally.

Soccer club defies racists

JERUSALEM -- Managers of a popular Jerusalem soccer club vowed Wednesday to proceed with plans to introduce two Muslim players to the mostly Jewish team despite a racist backlash from some fans.

The two new players, Zaur Sadayev and Gabriel Kadiev from the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya, arrived in Israel amid tight security and expressed hopes that they would be welcomed to the Beitar Jerusalem team.

But a group of fans protested their impending arrival during a game last weekend, unfurling a large banner that read, "Beitar Forever Pure." They also chanted slogans, such as "No Entry for Arabs," although the players are not Arabs.

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