World news in brief

Compiled by Monitor staff from wire service reports.

The Bush administration appeared to react positively to a suggestion by Russian President Vladimir Putin that the US site its antimissile shield in Azerbaijan rather than Poland and the Czech Republic. Putin, meeting with President Bush at the Group of Eight summit, said the Kremlin would drop its bitter opposition to the proposed system and wouldn't retarget its own missiles at Europe if the former Soviet republic became the alternate choice for the site. A senior administration official called the idea "interesting" and said, "Let's let our experts have a look at it."

"Substantial cuts" in greenhouse-gas emissions were agreed to at the G-8 summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced. She said the goal of the conferees is a plan to halve emissions by 2050. Whether that can be achieved was not clear, however. Instead, Bush has proposed a meeting of the world's top 15 polluters that would set a long-term goal but leave to participants the decision on how far each would go to meet it.

Two relatively short-range missiles were fired into the sea by North Korea Thursday in what defense analysts said may have been a sign of impatience with its nuclear negotiating partners. Although the missiles landed in the North's own territorial waters, the US condemned the tests – the second set in two weeks – as "not constructive." On Saturday, the North will be eight weeks overdue in shutting its nuclear facilities under terms of the deal it reached with five other nations.

An estimated 1,000 students streamed off college campuses in Zhengzhou, China, and fought with police for four hours as word spread that zealous city inspectors had beaten a female street vendor, reports said Thursday. The vendor, a student herself, apparently was targeted because she lacked a sales license. Student unrest in China has been a matter of extreme sensitivity since the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Beijing.

Citing the opportunity to attract investment from a booming China, Costa Rica has ended its 60-year diplomatic relationship with rival Taiwan, President Oscar Arias said Wednesday. His government and China will exchange ambassadors as soon as possible, the latter said. The move leaves Taiwan with ties to only 24 other nations, most of them small and poor. Analysts suggested that other Central American governments would follow Costa Rica's lead "if [they want] to play a role in international politics."

The force of cyclone Gonu's winds dropped from 95 m.p.h. to 41 m.p.h. as it crossed the Gulf of Oman and headed for landfall in Iran. But its track appeared likely to spare Iran's vital offshore oil installations, meteorologists said. Gonu caused at least 13 deaths in Oman and disrupted the shipping of crude oil.

Over the protests of human rights groups, Sri Lanka's government rounded up hundreds of minority Tamils in the capital, Colombo, Thursday and was transporting them back to villages in the north of the island.A spokesman said themove was for the safety of those affected. But he also acknowledged that it was aimed at stopping separatist rebels from infiltrating the city. Tamil separatists have claimed responsibility for two bomb explosions in Colombo in recent weeks that killed nine people.

At least 10 more people were killed Thursday as police in a Nairobi, Kenya, slum renewed their search for members of an banned religious sect. The casualties come on top of the deaths of 22 Mungiki followers in confrontations with police earlier this week. President Mwai Kibaki ordered the crackdown in the wake of at least 20 murders blamed on the sect since March. Leaflets allegedly circulated by the group threaten that 10 policemen will die for every one of their followers who is killed.

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