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World in brief

U.N. postpones its vote on cloning bans till '05

By Wire services
Published November 7, 2003

UNITED NATIONS - The Bush administration suffered a setback Thursday in its campaign for a global ban on all forms of human cloning, as key European allies and dozens of Islamic states that support therapeutic cloning blocked consideration of the issue at the United Nations until the end of 2005.

The 191-member U.N. General Assembly voted 80-79, with 15 abstentions and 17 no-shows, in support of a procedural motion, introduced by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, to defer debate on the topic for two years.

The maneuver derailed a U.S.-backed initiative by Costa Rica to vote on a resolution calling for a moratorium on human cloning and establishing a committee to draft an international convention banning the practice.

Although there is broad support at the United Nations for a global ban on reproductive human cloning, its debate has focused on how much leeway should be provided for the pursuit of developments in therapeutic cloning.

Palestinian government still deadlocked

RAMALLAH, West Bank - The Palestinian leadership crisis intensified Thursday, with the internationally respected finance minister staying away from his office in protest over political maneuvering that has delayed formation of a new Cabinet.

Officials close to Finance Minister Salam Fayad said his boycott was meant to pressure Arafat to stop holding up the formation of the new Cabinet.

The deadlock between Yasser Arafat and Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia is also holding up renewal of high-level contacts with Israel, and it might derail a conference of international donors who have been supporting the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority.

In violence Thursday, three Palestinians were killed, two in the West Bank and one in Gaza.

Early today, people in the central Gaza village of Almusader said Israeli special forces entered a house and exchanged fire with gunmen. There were no reports of casualties. Israeli military officials denied that soldiers entered a village.

Russia raids Soros Foundation offices

MOSCOW - In the wake of U.S. financier George Soros' public defense of jailed Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Moscow offices of the Soros Foundation were raided early today by dozens of men equipped with camouflage gear and stun guns, who hauled away 15 years worth of documents and computer data.

The operation, which began shortly after midnight, was carried out by private security forces ostensibly hired by a businessman with whom the foundation had been engaged in a legal dispute. But Soros Foundation officials said they could not rule out a connection to the Yukos Oil Co. case, in which offices throughout Moscow have been raided in recent months by authorities seeking evidence against the billionaire oil tycoon.

Prime minister returns to Sri Lanka in crisis

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - Sri Lanka's prime minister returned home today to a big welcome from supporters and Cabinet colleagues as he faced his toughest-ever political confrontation against an increasingly hostile president.

"Father of peace, we are with you," read a welcome poster at Bandaranaike International Airport. An estimated 7,000 of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's supporters gathered just outside the airport, as his motorcade prepared for the 19-mile trip to his home in Colombo. Police and army troops stood guard and kept people away from a VIP area.

Wickremesinghe's rival, President Chandrika Kumaratunga, has fired three of his Cabinet colleagues, suspended Parliament and stationed additional armed military men around the capital. She also imposed emergency rule that gives wide powers to the armed forces.

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