World new in brief

Compiled from wire service reports by Monitor staff.

No effort is being spared to free 22 remaining South Korean missionaries held hostage by the Taliban, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Sunday. But no progress was reported in negotiations on the matter, and the Taliban insisted that they be speeded up because most of the missionaries were ill. Their leader was executed last week in a show of anger that Karzai hadn't met a demand for the freeing of Taliban prisoners.

US technical experts and a Rus-sian delegation are scheduled to meet Monday on a Kremlin offer that would keep a proposed missile-defense system from being built in Poland and the Czech Republic. The offer calls for the system to use a radar station in the ex-Soviet republic of Azerbaijan instead. President Bush called that idea "very constructive," but insisted that the two eastern European nations must be an integral part of the system. The Kremlin has said Russian cooperation on missile defense would be impossible if any of the system was based in eastern Europe.

A Muslim doctor was en route home to India Sunday after Australian prosecutors admitted that they lacked evidence connecting him to attempted terrorist attacks. But Mohamed Haneef's visa permitting him to work in Australia was canceled. He is expected to appeal to have it reinstated. His case took on a high profile after it was alleged that he'd given a cellphone service card to a cousin who was arrested in failed bombing attacks in London and Glasgow, Scotland, last month.

Senior Army officers in Zimbabwe have agreed to help President Robert Mugabe win reelection next year, the (London) Sunday Telegraph reported. It said the help would take the form of a "heavy" presence at polling places and in counting votes alongside Electoral Commission personnel. The report said Mugabe told generals earlier this month that he'd step down after voters had returned him to power, shaming "Western governments bent on reoccupying us." Despite Zimbabwe's hyperinflation, Mugabe also promised that more money would be printed to fund infrastructure projects, the official Herald newspaper said Saturday.

Accusing the Bulgarian government of betrayal, Libya's Foreign Ministry "demanded" that other members of the Arab League, Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the African Union review their relations with it. The ministry blasted Bulgaria's decision to issue pardons to all six medical personnel who were convicted of deliberately infecting Libyan children with the virus that's believed to cause AIDS. They were sentenced to death but later were extradited to Bulgaria, where they "should have been detained on their arrival," the foreign ministry said.

More than 7,000 "defense volunteers" will be armed over the next three years to help protect villages and trains in southern Thailand, the Bangkok Post reported. Muslim separatists in Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat provinces are blamed for a campaign of violence that has killed more than 2,300 people in the past 3-1/2 years. Most of the casualties have been Buddhists, but the separatists were suspected of killing a fellow Muslim Saturday night who'd left their ranks two years ago.

Athletes on Cuba's team at the Pan American Games were ordered home so abruptly that some of them couldn't accept their medals or collect their luggage, the BBC reported. Cuba was in second place behind the US in the medal standings as the quadrennial sports festival closed Sunday in Rio de Janeiro. Four Cubans, all boxers, slipped away from the team while training for the games in Venezuela.

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