News in Brief

Observers Talking Tough

The head of the only Western observer mission monitoring Sunday's presidential election in Russia said Wednesday that its assessment would be tough and would criticize a lack of choice.

"Our statement on Monday will not be less tough than the one three weeks ago because nearly nothing improved," said Andreas Gross, the head of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly delegation. (Reuters)

Russia Sends Iran a Warning

Russia warned Iran on Wednesday that it would back further United Nations sanctions over its nuclear program unless Tehran halted uranium enrichment in the next few days.

The United States, Britain and France are pushing for new punitive measures on Iran, which they suspect of seeking to acquire a nuclear weapon.

Moscow could back a sanctions resolution that the Western powers have drafted in the Security Council this week, Vitaly Churkin, Russia's UN envoy, told reporters via a video link from New York. (Reuters)

Security Forces Out for Vote

About 300,000 law enforcement officers and 150,000 special forces troops from the Interior Ministry will maintain order nationwide Sunday, when voters go to the polls to choose a successor to President Vladimir Putin.

Two or three police officers will be posted at every polling station in the country, First Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Chekalin said in an interview published Wednesday in the government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

"There will be no more officers than are needed to maintain law and order," Chekalin said, adding that special forces troops will be held in reserve to handle emergencies. (Bloomberg)

Kosovo Serbs Call on Russia

PRISTINA, Kosovo -- Serbs in Kosovo called Wednesday for the return of Russian peacekeepers to the country after the Albanian majority's declaration of independence from Serbia this month.

The call was made by the Serb National Council, a group of leaders in the Serbian stronghold of North Mitrovica.

"The Serb National Council calls on Russia to return its KFOR contingent, to stabilize the situation in areas where Serbs are in the majority," council leader Milan Ivanovic said.

Russia withdrew its troops from the NATO-led Kosovo Force, KFOR, in 2003, four years after deploying with 45,000 others after an 11-week NATO air war. The force is now down to 16,000 soldiers. (Reuters)

For the Record

North Korea released a Russian cargo ship seized in the Sea of Japan on Saturday while on its way to the Pacific port of Vladivostok. (Bloomberg)

Falling icicles killed six people over the long weekend in the Samara region, officials said. (MT)