News in Brief

Karabakh Talks in St. Pete

Armenia's and Azerbaijan's leaders will meet on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum this week to discuss the disputed area of Nagorno-Karabakh for the first time since Armenia's change of president, Interfax reported.

Armenia's foreign minister, Edward Nalbandyan, announced the June 6 talks after a meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Friday. (Reuters)

14 Cars Set Ablaze

Fourteen cars were set ablaze at night in two attacks in a southern Moscow suburb, Interfax reported, citing the police.

Ten vehicles were torched in a courtyard off Kulikovskaya Ulitsa in the North Butovo district late Thursday night. Thirty minutes later, an unidentified individual set fire to four cars off nearby Bulvar Dmitria Donskogo.

A criminal investigation has been opened, and a search is under way for the arsonist. (Bloomberg)

8 Killed in Far East Fire

Eight people were killed when fire swept through a wooden house in the city of Khabarovsk in the Far East, RIA-Novosti reported Sunday.

The fire gutted the single-story building on Saturday, a police official said. "The landlady, her daughter, son-in-law and five of their acquaintances died in the fire," he said.

All were believed to have been drinking, he said. (Reuters)

Chewing Tobacco Banned

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan -- Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has banned a Central Asian variety of tobacco known as nas, state media said.

Nas is usually placed under the tongue or between the lower lip and gum and has a stronger effect than cigarettes. It also causes the person consuming it to spit almost constantly.

Berdymukhammedov, a dentist by education, also ordered the government to carry out campaigns aimed at educating the population about the health damage caused by dipping tobacco.

Turkmenistan previously banned smoking and consuming nas in public areas. (Reuters)

Poles Wouldn't Pick Putin

WARSAW -- A poll says Polish voters would swap their president, Lech Kaczynski, for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair or German Chancellor Angela Merkel if a foreigner could hold the job.

But the least acceptable candidate was Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The poll by the PBS DGA center published in Gazeta Wyborcza daily said some 25 percent of respondents named Blair their top choice. Germany's chancellor was favored by women and came in second with 14 percent support.

Some 48 percent of the 1,030 questioned rejected Putin. (AP)

For the Record

Eighteen men went on trial in Azerbaijan on Friday for suspected links with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network. Most were arrested in October and November in a sting operation. (Reuters)

Ukraine's new ambassador to the European Union, Andri Veselovsky, said in presenting his credentials to the European Commission late last week that there is growing support for his country's aims to draw closer to the EU, despite Russian opposition that dealt a setback to its NATO membership bid last month. (AP)