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Saturday, June 3, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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World Digest

Nobel laureate takes security posts

Dili, East Timor

Nobel Peace laureate Josť Ramos Horta said Friday he would take over East Timor's top security posts in a bid to end factional divisions that have plunged the country into chaos.

His announcement came as fresh looting and rioting broke out in the capital, and was likely to further isolate embattled Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri.

Ramos Horta won the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize for bringing world attention to the plight of East Timorese under years of often brutal Indonesian rule. He is already foreign minister, and is expected to be sworn in today as head of both the defense and the interior ministries.

The defense and interior ministers resigned Thursday, taking responsibility for failing to prevent the worst violence since East Timor's break from Indonesia in 1999.

United Nations

AIDS conferees reach compromise

Delegates to a United Nations conference on AIDS reached agreement Friday after difficult negotiations on a policy declaration that sets no targets for the number of people who should be treated and makes only indirect reference to high-risk groups such as homosexuals, prostitutes and intravenous-drug users.

The statement, however, contains language acknowledging the "feminization" of the global AIDS epidemic, as well as the importance of teaching young people about the disease and the need for drugs specifically formulated for children.

The eight-page statement is a compromise that provided victories for the United States, which opposed numerical treatment targets; Islamic countries, which did not want "vulnerable populations" spelled out in detail; and many activist groups that sought statements that empowering women is a tool against AIDS.

Abuja, Nigeria

8 foreign workers abducted from rig

Eight foreign workers, including one American, were kidnapped from a drilling rig off Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta Friday in the latest incident highlighting the tenuous security of oil operations in Africa's largest crude producer.

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The kidnappers have offered to negotiate the release of the hostages — six Britons, the American and a Canadian — taken before dawn from the drilling rig Bulford Dolphin, according to Scotland-based Dolphin Drilling, which operates the rig.

Oil prices jumped by almost $2 a barrel Friday after the report revived concerns about Nigerian supplies.

United Nations

Outlook for crops improves in Africa

A good rainy season in southern Africa is leading to an improved harvest in the previously drought-stricken region, but pockets of hunger remain, the United Nations reported Friday. "In general, food security is improving due to the new crops in rural markets," the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

But even as aid to the region is being scaled down, some areas are chronically short of food while others are affected by localized dry spells, heavy rains, flooding or crop diseases, it said.

Parts of Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia could face shortages due to flooding or dry spells, and there has not been enough planting in Swaziland to meet needs, the office said.

In Zimbabwe, while rains have been adequate, food supplies still are expected to fall short because of fertilizer shortages and poor land preparation, it said.

Singapore

Rumsfeld cautious on Asian security

Security cooperation among nations in Southeast Asia is expanding but could be set back if China, Russia and North Korea don't become more open and less threatening, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today.

In remarks prepared for delivery to military leaders from the region, Rumsfeld pledged that the United States will stay involved in Southeast Asia. He pointed to improved relationships between the United States and Japan, India, Indonesia, South Korea and Pakistan.

Damascus, Syria

5 die in gunbattle of police, militants

Syrian police fought Islamic militants near the Defense Ministry on Friday in a gunbattle that killed five people and wounded four, the government said.

The shootout came after the police heard an "extremist terrorist unit" was in the area and engaged it, the Interior Ministry said. One police officer was killed and two were wounded, it said.

The director-general of state broadcasting, Fayez Sayegh, said police killed four militants and detained six, two of them wounded.

Compiled from The Associated Press, The Washington Post and Reuters

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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