International news roundup – Jan. 29

OPEC, the oil cartel, “will not hesitate” to cut production again if prices don’t rise in the next few weeks, its leader said. Secretary-General Abdalla Salem El-Badri told the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, that OPEC members will have completed their 4.2 million barrel-a-day cut by this weekend and then will review its effectiveness in stimulating global demand for oil. Crude futures were trading below $41 a barrel Thursday.

Voting for president in Afghan-istan must be delayed until Aug. 20 because of a need for increased security, the Independent Election Commission said Thursday. A spokesman said parliament will have to legislate an extension of incumbent Hamid Karzai’s term, which expires May 22, to avoid a power vacuum. But legislators protested the move, claiming that both the delay and an extension of Karzai’s term would be unconstitutional.

A deal that would bring Russian Navy and Air Force bases to the breakaway region of Abkhazia will be signed in a few months, a separatist leader said Thurs-day. The Kremlin did not immediately confirm the claim, but NATO officials expressed concern. Abkhazia is regarded by the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia as its territory. In last summer’s brief war over South Ossetia, another breakaway region, Russia sent both warships and marines to Abkhazia.

More casualties were reported in Madagascar after antigovernment rioting earlier this week, and many businesses in the capital were closed Thursday in a new form of protest. In Antananarivo, the capital, police raised the number of dead to 44. But they said at least 16 people were killed in the coastal city of Toilara and 10 others died elsewhere. The opposition leader, Antananarivo Mayor Andry Rajoelina, who accuses President Marc Ravalomanana of turning the huge island nation into a dictatorship, has called on supporters to take to the streets again Saturday.

The private and public sectors across France united Thursday in a strike by hundreds of thousands of workers to demand greater efforts to stimulate the economy. Participants came from factories, transit systems, schools, banks, hospitals, the Paris stock exchange, and the mail service. Organizers said President Nicolas Sarkozy’s recently announced $33 billion stimulus plan is insufficient. Above, steelworkers in Marseille join the walkout.

Pirates pulled off a new seizure of a ship in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia Thursday, reports said. A US Navy spokesman and a diplomat based in neighboring Kenya confirmed that the ship is a German tanker, the Longchamp, with 13 crewmen aboard. It is believed to be carrying liquefied petroleum gas. The hijacking is the third in the region this month, after pirates extorted an estimated $30 million from ship owners last year.

If Prime Minister Stephen Harper provides Parliament with regular status reports on the Canadian economy, the opposition Liberal Party won’t vote against his proposed $32 billion stimulus plan, it announced. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff (above, at a news briefing) said Harper is “on probation” and must give the updates by March 26, June 23, and Dec. 10. His government is projecting a deficit for the first time in 10 years, and a defeat of his budget in Parliament could have thrown power to a coalition of opposition parties led by the Liberals.

Six hostages being held by Colombia’s largest rebel movement will be freed in stages Sunday, a negotiator said. Sen. Piedad Cordoba said Red Cross workers traveling in helicopters loaned by Brazil would accept custody. The Revolutionary Armed Forces are believed to be holding at least 350 hostages, among them political figures whom they’ve tried unsuccessfully to trade for colleagues in prison.

– Compiled from the wires

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