News in Brief

New Anti-Trafficking Force



The Interior Ministry said Tuesday that it would establish a joint task force to coordinate the fight against human trafficking.

Interior Ministry Colonel Yury Alekseyev said the task force would help coordinate anti-trafficking operations between law enforcement agencies, the ministry said in a statement on its web site. It did not give specifics on how the task force would function.

Human trafficking exploded following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Experts say more than 2 million people are illegally trafficked every year, many of them women trafficked for sexual exploitation, the statement said. (MT)




Medvedev, Saakashvili Talks?



President Dmitry Medvedev and Georgia's Mikheil Saakashvili could meet at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in early June for talks that might thaw the chill between their countries, Georgia's ambassador to Russia said Tuesday.

"Georgia is ready for a dialogue, and we are getting certain messages from our Russian colleagues that they are ready for this dialogue as well," Ambassador Erosi Kitsmarishvili told reporters.

St. Petersburg holds the forum from June 6 to 8. Kremlin officials could not be reached for comment. (Reuters)




Polish Doubts on Missiles



SANTIAGO, Chile -- Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk says his country's talks with the United States on an anti-missile shield will take a long time.

Tusk told a news conference in Chile on Monday that his country hasn't decided on whether to use a U.S. anti-missile system that has worried Russian leaders. He said Poland would like U.S. help, but says the shield should "improve Polish defense, not harm it."

Tusk said his talks with Russian officials should reduce their concern over the shield. (AP)




Belarus Asked to Free Man



WASHINGTON -- The United States is urging Belarus' government to grant a U.S. plea for the release on humanitarian grounds of an ailing U.S. citizen jailed two months ago on charges of using false documents.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says U.S. consular officials have been allowed to see Emanuel Zeltser only twice. McCormack says during the second visit, three weeks ago, the 54-year-old prisoner's health had deteriorated significantly, and Zeltser was being denied needed medications.

McCormack said Monday that the State Department has received no answer to the humanitarian release request and urged a quick and favorable response. (AP)




NASA Unfazed About Soyuz



CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- NASA has set May 31 for the next space shuttle launch and said Russia's investigation into last month's rocky landing of its own spacecraft shouldn't interfere.

Senior NASA managers agreed Monday to proceed as planned with Discovery's two-week trip to deliver a Japanese lab to the international space station. A Soyuz ship is always docked there as an emergency "lifeboat" in case the crew needs it. But the last Soyuz that flew made an off-course, steeper-than-usual descent on April 19. (AP)