News in Brief

Germans Blast Russian Spies

BERLIN -- German intelligence officials on Thursday accused Russia of employing spies and Internet technology to obtain industrial secrets.

The domestic intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, said in its 2007 report that Germany was highly attractive to foreign spies due to its cutting-edge technology and market leadership in several sectors.

The report said Russia and China were responsible for a good deal of intelligence-gathering activity in Germany, but it singled out Russia in the field of industrial espionage. "Intelligence and security services are under orders to actively support Russian industry," said the report, adding that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had renewed that as a goal when he was president. (Reuters)

Security Beefed Up in Iran

The Foreign Ministry said Thursday that security would be beefed up at its administrative buildings in Iran after Iran's top intelligence official said bombers had plotted to attack a Russian consulate.

Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi said Wednesday that a group suspected of bombing a mosque in the country last month also planned to bomb the consulate in Rasht city in northern Iran to strain ties between Iran and Russia.

"The Russian Foreign Ministry and the Russian Embassy in Tehran in cooperation with the Iranian side are taking the necessary additional measures to strengthen security at Russian representative buildings and of citizens in Iran," the ministry said on its web site. (AP)

Hope for EU-Russia Talks

VILNIUS, Lithuania -- A senior Lithuanian diplomat voiced confidence that a deal could be reached by EU foreign ministers to approve this month a mandate for new partnership talks with Russia.

"It is very likely that we will approve the mandate on May 26 at the EU foreign ministers' meeting," the diplomat said Wednesday. (Reuters)

Azeris Bar Vote Observers

BAKU, Azerbaijan -- An Azeri court has banned an election monitoring organization six months before a presidential vote, a move the group's head said was politically motivated.

The Center for Monitoring of Elections works under Europe's main election watchdog, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has criticized Azerbaijan's previous elections.

"Azerbaijan's Ministry of Justice confirmed our registration in February but in April applied to the court to revoke it because of some violations on the documents," the group's head, Anar Mamedli, said Wednesday. (Reuters)

Young Guard Snorted Coke

A prominent member of the youth wing of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party said he has been snorting cocaine and taking ecstasy pills for years, according to an interview published Thursday.

"The most terrible period is over now, and I am happy I have mustered up my will [to fight drug addiction]," pop singer Vlad Topalov, 22, told Moskovsky Komsomolets. The peroxide blond heartthrob, one of the best-known faces in the pro-Kremlin Young Guard group, said he had sniffed cocaine for the last four years.

Young Guard leaders could decide to exclude the singer from their ranks because of the interview, a Young Guard activist told Ekho Moskvy. (Reuters)