News in Brief

South Korean Leader Arrives



SEOUL, South Korea -- President Lee Myung-bak arrived Sunday in Moscow, where he and President Dmitry Medvedev are expected to discuss strengthening economic ties as well as North Korea's push to reassemble its nuclear program.

The trip is the conservative South Korean leader's first official visit to Russia since taking office in February. Lee also met Medvedev on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit in Japan in July.

The two leaders also are expected to sign more than a dozen industrial and energy cooperation agreements when they meet Monday, Lee's office said.

Lee also will meet with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and stop in St. Petersburg. (AP)




Warship Sent to Seized Ship



A Russian warship was ordered Friday to intercept a Ukrainian vessel carrying 33 battle tanks and a hoard of ammunition that was seized by pirates off the Horn of Africa.

Navy spokesman Igor Dygalo said the missile frigate Neustrashimy left the Baltic Sea port of Baltiisk a day before the hijacking to cooperate with other unspecified countries in anti-piracy efforts.

But he said the ship was then ordered directly to the Somalia coast after Thursday's attack.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Yury Yekhanurov said the hijacked vessel Faina was carrying 33 Russian-built T-72 tanks and a substantial quantity of ammunition and spare parts.

The hijackers on Saturday demanded a $35 million ransom for the ship. (AP)




Israeli Premier to Visit



JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will visit Russia on Oct. 6 and 7 for talks with its leaders, Olmert's office said Sunday.

Olmert has been serving in a caretaker capacity since resigning a week ago. He had planned to visit Moscow earlier this month, but the trip was postponed amid political uncertainty in Israel touched off by a corruption scandal that forced him to step down.

Israeli officials said at the time that Olmert intended to discuss Iran's nuclear program and voice concern over reports that Russia planned to arm Syria with advanced missiles. (Reuters)




Iran Sanctions Reaffirmed



UNITED NATIONS -- The UN Security Council has unanimously approved a new resolution reaffirming previous sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt its uranium enrichment program and offering Tehran incentives to do so.

The vote on Saturday followed a compromise between the United States and Russia to lead a new council effort to condemn Iran's nuclear program, without introducing any new sanctions.

The brief resolution reaffirmed the three earlier Security Council sanctions resolutions, which imposed progressively tougher sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt its enrichment program. (AP)




Plan for Mideast Peace Talks



UNITED NATIONS -- The Quartet of Middle East mediators said it favored holding an international meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in Moscow next spring.

"The Quartet agreed that the spring of 2009 could be an appropriate time for an international meeting in Moscow," the group said Friday in a statement after a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Russia first floated the idea in November of hosting a Middle East conference without specifying a date. (Reuters)




Prague Criticizes Moscow



UNITED NATIONS -- When Russia invaded Georgia last month, it acted like a colonial power determined to slice up and take over parts of its neighbor, the Czech Republic's foreign minister said Saturday.

"We have recently witnessed systematic provocations and finally military aggression of a powerful country, a permanent member of the Security Council, against its neighbor with the aim to carve it up," Karel Schwarzenberg told the UN General Assembly. "This action was designed to create two tiny entities totally dependent [on] its administrative, economic and military structures. Colonial powers used to act this way." (Reuters)




U.S. Defends Stance



BERLIN -- The U.S. ambassador to NATO said Friday that the United States would not abandon countries under pressure from Moscow, defending its handling of the Russia-Georgia war and plans to build a missile-defense system in Central Europe.

Russia has cast Georgia as the aggressor in the war, but Volker rattled off a litany of Russian moves before Georgia's attack on Aug. 8 -- including firing across the border at a radar system, shooting down a Georgian drone aircraft over Georgian airspace and Russian flights over Georgian territory -- which he suggested were designed to provoke a response that Moscow was well prepared to deliver. (AP)




Saakashvili Thanks Biden



MILWAUKEE -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili personally thanked Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden for flying to his country to show support during the Russian invasion last month.

"You came straight into the middle of the conflict. … That was very brave of you," Saakashvili told Biden before they began a private meeting in Milwaukee on Friday. "I certainly will not forget that, and my people are not going to forget it." (AP)




Bomb Kills Woman



A woman was killed by a remote-controlled bomb that apparently was aimed at a passing police vehicle in Makhachkala, Dagestani police said.

The bomb, which had been placed in a sidewalk waste container, was detonated as a police patrol car passed by on a downtown street late Saturday. (AP)




Ukrainian Presidential Vote?



KIEV -- Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko signaled Friday that her standoff with President Viktor Yushchenko might lead to an early presidential election.

In an interview with foreign journalists, Tymoshenko said she hoped to revive a coalition with the president or form a new government with a Moscow-friendly opposition party. If that falls through, Tymoshenko said, early parliamentary elections should be held alongside a presidential vote.

"I believe that it would be logical to hold simultaneous parliamentary and presidential elections, but that would be the worst scenario," Tymoshenko said.

Tymoshenko said her political party will participate in both votes but skirted the question of whether she personally would run for president. (AP)