World briefs – July 23

Scottish ministers have declined a request to attend a U.S. Senate hearing about the circumstances surrounding the release of the Lockerbie bomber, a spokesman for the Scottish government said Thursday.

Scottish minister declines U.S. request to attend Lockerbie hearing

LONDON — Scottish ministers have declined a request to attend a U.S. Senate hearing about the circumstances surrounding the release of the Lockerbie bomber, a spokesman for the Scottish government said Thursday.

The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations wrote a letter to the Scottish administration inviting Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and the Scottish Prison Service’s medical chief, Andrew Fraser, to attend the hearing in Washington on July 29.

Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, wrote to First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond, saying that the invitation was to help the senators better understand why Scotland decided to free Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi from jail last year and send him home to Libya.

Megrahi was convicted of the 1988 bombing of a U.S. airline that slammed into the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing 270 people.

The senators are investigating whether an oil exploration deal between BP and Libya influenced the decision to release al-Megrahi.

Six killed in Greyhound crash

FRESNO, Calif. — The California Highway Patrol says a sixth person has died in a bus crash in California’s Central Valley.

California Highway Patrol Officer Michelle Sigmond said the person was pronounced dead at Fresno Community Regional Medical Center.

Five people died at the scene of the crash just outside downtown Fresno.

The Greyhound bus carrying 35 people was travelling to Sacramento from Los Angeles when the driver swerved to avoid another crash involving an overturned minivan and slammed into the concrete centre divider and then hit another vehicle and a tree at about 2 a.m.

Tutu to retire from public life

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu announced Thursday he is retiring from public life later this year when he turns 79, saying “the time has come to slow down” and spend more time with his family.

The former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town said after his birthday on Oct. 7 he will limit his time in the office to one day per week until February 2011.

“Instead of growing old gracefully, at home with my family reading and writing and praying and thinking too much of my time has been spent at airports and in hotels,” Tutu said in a statement Thursday. “The time has now come to slow down, to sip Rooibos tea with my beloved wife in the afternoons, to watch cricket, to travel to visit my children and grandchildren, rather than to conferences and conventions and university campuses.”

Demjanjuk ordered to appear in court

MUNICH, Germany — A German judge has for the first time ordered John Demjanjuk to appear in court after health issues caused the cancellation of sessions in his trial over allegations that he was a guard at the Nazis’ Sobibor death camp.

Two sessions last week were called off but Demjanjuk appeared Thursday at the Munich state court. Judge Ralph Alt says he informed the 90-year-old former Ohio autoworker that he was being ordered to attend.

Demjanjuk showed no reaction to the proceedings.

Demjanjuk is being tried on 28,060 counts of accessory to murder. He denies the charges.

Demjanjuk suffers several medical problems.

U.S. slaps sanctions on Taliban leaders

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration targeted key leaders of Afghanistan’s Taliban with new sanctions, a move that could complicate Afghan efforts to reconcile with insurgents.

The action by the Treasury Department on Thursday will freeze the insurgents’ assets, ban travel and trigger an arms embargo, and it comes just a week after a top military commander urged the sanctions.

Three financial kingpins were targeted, including a key member of the al-Qaida-linked Haqqani network, which directs operations against U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan from safe havens in Pakistan.

U.S. officials have been pressing Pakistan to crack down on the Haqqani network,.

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