World briefs: Hezbollah linked to blast

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SOFIA, Bulgaria -- The Bulgarian government said Tuesday that two of the people behind a deadly bombing attack that targeted an Israeli tour bus six months ago were believed to be members of the military wing of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

The announcement could force the European Union to reconsider whether to designate the group as a terrorist organization and crack down on its extensive fundraising operations across the Continent.

The bombing claimed the lives of five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver.

Forced labor in Ireland

DUBLIN -- The state colluded in forced labor at laundries run by nuns in Ireland between 1922 and 1996, according to a report published by the Department of Justice on Tuesday.

The Magdalene laundries were run by Catholic religious congregations using the forced labor of young women, some of whom had just given birth or were pregnant outside marriage.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny told parliament it had been proved that there was state intervention in 26 percent of cases where women were sent to the laundries.

Elite hospital plan dropped

MOSCOW -- In the face of widespread opposition, the Russian government has backed down from a plan to bar the public from a well-regarded St. Petersburg hospital and reserve it exclusively for the nation's senior judges.

The plan seemed like a throwback to Soviet times, when the best medical centers were reserved for high-ranking officials.

China targets Japan ship

TOKYO -- Japan said Tuesday that a Chinese military vessel trained a radar used to help direct weapons last week on a Japanese naval vessel near disputed islands in the East China Sea. The Japanese Defense Ministry also said that a Chinese frigate directed the same kind of radar at one of Japan's military helicopters in a previously undisclosed episode on Jan. 19.

In both cases, the Japanese government said, the Chinese ships eventually turned off the radar without firing, but the Japanese defense minister warned that such actions increased the chances that any missteps in a dispute over the islands could veer into a larger confrontation.

Chinese officials had no immediate comment.

Firm to stop deforestation

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- One of the world's largest paper companies pledged Tuesday to stop its suppliers from cutting down natural forests in Indonesia, a move it hopes will help preserve the threatened habitats of rare animals such as orangutans and Sumatran tigers while helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions released from carbon-rich peatland.

Asia Pulp & Paper Group worked with environmental groups Greenpeace and the Forest Trust to forge the plan that went into effect Feb. 1. It relies solely on farmed trees grown on plantations and also includes monitoring by outside groups to ensure transparency.

Gas buildup was culprit

MEXICO CITY -- Mexican officials' assertion that a buildup of natural gas -- and not a bomb -- caused last week's devastating explosion at the Mexico City headquarters of the state oil company raised as many questions as answers on Tuesday.

The massive blast Thursday destroyed four stories of a 13-story building, killed 37, injured 126, and intensified interest in a dismal safety record for Petroleos Mexicanos, widely known as Pemex.



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