World briefs: Stocks fall in Argentina

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Stocks fell sharply in Argentina on Thursday as the country entered into economic uncertainty with its second default in 13 years, one forced upon it by New York hedge funds with the backing of U.S. courts.

The Merval stock index closed down more than 8 percent a day after Argentina walked away from talks in New York, where a court-appointed mediator led negotiations with U.S. hedge funds demanding some $1.5 billion.

Economy Minister Axel Kicillof made it clear that Argentina and the holdout creditors remain far apart — he and other officials refuse to concede that the country is even legally in default. But he told reporters that he was nevertheless open to further talks involving a court-appointed mediator.

Death of ex-KGB officer

LONDON — At a time of icy relations between Britain and Russia, a senior judge in London on Thursday opened a high-profile public inquiry into the poisoning death of the former KGB officer Alexander V. Litvinenko, saying that allegations of Moscow’s involvement would be “of central importance.”

Mr. Litvinenko, a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, died in November 2006 at age 43 after ingesting polonium 210, a rare radioactive isotope that investigators later found in high concentrations in a teapot at a central London hotel where he had met with Russian associates.

NATO unprepared

LONDON — NATO is not prepared for the threat of a Russian attack on one of its members, British lawmakers said on Thursday, calling for more equipment and troops to be positioned in the Baltic States, which, they said, were particularly vulnerable.

Parliament's Defense Select Committee said events in Crimea and eastern Ukraine had revealed “alarming deficiencies” in NATO's preparedness and should be a “wake-up call."

Kerry in India

NEW DELHI — In the first high-level American visit to India since the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that the Obama administration was seeking a “new relationship” with India.

For Mr. Modi, who is scheduled to meet with Mr. Kerry today, the talks are a way to put an end to years of frostiness and suspicion between the United States and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Mr. Modi’s role in 2002 riots that led to the deaths of more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, had long led U.S. officials to shun him and even deny him a visa.

Pakistani army

ISLAMABAD — A six-week Pakistani army offensive has succeeded in disrupting the militant groups that have long enjoyed free rein in the rugged North Waziristan tribal region along the border with Afghanistan, Obama administration officials say.

But proof of the operation’s success, they say, will be whether groups such as the notorious Haqqani network are allowed to reconstitute themselves in North Waziristan or elsewhere and again plot attacks against U.S.-led forces in neighboring Afghanistan or elsewhere.

Gay activists in China

BEIJING — Gay rights activists in China sued a counseling center Thursday for its offers to cure homosexuality through “gay conversion therapy” — the first lawsuit of its kind in a country where gay people are granted few rights and little recognition.

Gay activists staged a protest outside a Beijing court before the case was heard and said they hoped that the trial would persuade the medical community to change its policies on homosexuality and its practice of diagnosing it as a disorder.


-- Compiled from news services


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