News in Brief

EU Talks Set for Nov. 25

The next round of talks on a partnership agreement between the European Union and Russia may take place Nov. 25, a European diplomat said Tuesday.

"Later this month, I don't have the exact date, maybe about the 25th of November, there will be the second round of negotiations on the new agreement," said the diplomat, who asked not to be identified.

The EU on Monday agreed to restart talks with Russia on the partnership and cooperation agreement. (Reuters)

Lukashenko Praises Obama

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko has praised U.S. President-elect Barack Obama as "young, educated and unblinkered" and said he hoped that he would improve strained relations between the two countries.

"[Obama] is a new, young, educated and unblinkered man, a faster-acting and more energetic man who will be able to look at the world situation in a more realistic way," Lukashenko told The Wall Street Journal, in an interview, excerpts of which were released Tuesday.

"If it is in America's interests to develop relations with us without new barriers or preconditions, we will move toward that in a serious way." (Reuters)

Pope, Patriarch May Meet

Pope Benedict XVI and Patriarch Alexy II may meet during a congress of religious leaders in Baku next year, RIA-Novosti reported Tuesday.

The Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches are seeking to resolve a number of issues to allow for such an "epochal" meeting, said Russian Orthodox Bishop Alexander of Baku and the Caspian region. Benedict XVI and Alexy II have both been invited to the congress, the report said. The Roman Catholic Church hopes a meeting can take place, said Jan Chapla, head of the church in Azerbaijan. (Bloomberg)

Frigate Escorts Danish Ship

A Russian frigate is escorting a Danish-owned commercial ship in the pirate-infested waters off Somalia's coast, Navy spokesman Igor Dygalo said Tuesday.

The escort of the CEC Commander came after an official request from Copenhagen, Dygalo said. The ship is owned by a Danish firm, flies a Bahamian flag and its crew includes 15 Russians, he said. There was no immediate comment from Denmark. (AP)

Pilot Blamed for Jet Crash

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- Pilot error was likely to blame for the crash of a Boeing jet in August that killed 74 in Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyz Transportation Minister Nurlan Sulaimanov said Tuesday.

A Russian-led investigation made the conclusion after studying onboard recordings, Sulaimanov said.

The Itek Air's Boeing 737 heading to Iran crashed Aug. 24 shortly after takeoff from the main Kyrgyz airport following a crew's request for an emergency landing. (AP)

Merkel Presses NATO

BERLIN -- NATO needs to reach out to Russia and make clear that the defense alliance and Moscow will be most effective at fighting the world's security problems if they work together, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

Merkel said she welcomed the prospect of Georgia and Ukraine becoming members of NATO but warned that neither country would be ready to join "in the foreseeable future."

Merkel has at times been a leading critic of Russia, especially on issues like human rights, but on Monday she focused more on the importance of Russia.

"I think it is better to talk with each other than about each other," Merkel said in a speech at a meeting of the Atlantic Treaty Association in the German capital. (Reuters)

Boiling Water Kills Woman

ST. PETERSBURG -- A St. Petersburg woman who fell into a pit of boiling water after parking her car died Tuesday from burns, a hospital official said.

The hole was caused by a ruptured underground heating pipe.

"She parked her car, left it and immediately found herself in boiling water," said an official at the Military Medical Academy in St. Petersburg.

A man who tried to rescue the 57-year-old woman also suffered burns but was in stable condition, the official said. (Reuters)