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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Belarus Arms Exports

MINSK, Belarus (Reuters) -- Belarus, under threat of U.S. sanctions over alleged illegal arms trading, has tightened state controls over arms exports to developing countries, the KGB security service said Wednesday.

The U.S. State Department hinted last month at possible sanctions against Belarus over allegations the country was involved in arms smuggling to countries or groups supporting terrorism, in breach of United Nations sanctions.

Stepan Sukhorenko, first deputy head of the KGB, reiterated that Belarus had complied with all international requirements on arms trading, adding that the country would allow the United States to monitor its arms sales.

"Today we have even stopped supplies of some goods that can be used for civil as well as military purposes," Sukhorenko told reporters during a rare news conference.

He did not comment on which countries were banned from receiving the goods, but said the country sold the majority of its arms to Sudan, Algeria and Angola on condition they did not re-export them.

He said after the KGB had received evidence that Belarussian trucks sold to Pakistan were re-equipped for military use, the country had stopped such sales.

Bush Thanks Uzbeks

WASHINGTON (WP) -- President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan on Tuesday met in the Oval Office with U.S. President George W. Bush and received thanks for Uzbekistan's help in the war on terrorism.

Karimov also lunched with Secretary of State Colin Powell. Uzbek and American officials signed a five-point "Strategic Partnership" agreement.

Powell signed an agreement to buy land for a new U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, and the U.S. Export-Import Bank granted Uzbekistan a $55 million credit guarantee. The United States is also tripling foreign aid to Uzbekistan, to $160 million

Karimov was to meet Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Wednesday and visit the World Trade Center ruins in New York.

No Kuchma Probe

KIEV (AP) -- Ukraine's chief prosecutor on Tuesday dismissed parliament's request to investigate the president over suspected criminal ties, saying the accusations were groundless.

"There are no grounds to start a criminal investigation, [as] there is no crime in the president's actions," Prosecutor General Myhailo Potebenko said, Interfax reported.

Last week, parliament asked Potebenko to open a criminal investigation into allegations that President Leonid Kuchma aided former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, who is in a San Francisco jail on U.S. charges of conspiracy, money laundering and transporting stolen property.

Potobenko also turned down parliament's request to investigate commercial deals by Kuchma chief of staff and parliamentary candidate Volodymyr Lytvyn.

Riga Releases Agent

RIGA, Latvia (AP) -- The only known Stalinist-era secret police agent imprisoned in the Baltic republics was to be released from prison Wednesday after a court ruled he was too ill to finish serving his term.

Mikhail Farbtukh, 85, was jailed in May 2000 after being convicted on charges that he helped deport scores of Latvians in 1941. He was sentenced to seven years in prison -- though that term was later reduced to five years.

A Riga district court upheld Farbtukh's request that he be released from a cramped cell in the city's Matisa Prison for health reasons.

"He is a sick man and he should not have been in jail," said Vitolds Zahars, director of the Central Prison Administration. "It's absolutely the right decision."

Russian officials have strongly criticized Farbtukh's conviction, saying Latvia was exacting revenge on an ailing, elderly man.

Radioactive Scrap

VLADIVOSTOK, Far East (AP) -- A shipment of Japanese scrap metal heading for China via Russia will be sent back to Japan because it was emitting large amounts of radiation, the State Customs Committee said Wednesday.

The 346-ton shipment arrived in the Russian port of Vostochny in December, the committee said in a statement. Of the total, 44 tons of metal, including 52 aircraft engines and other fragments, were found to be emitting radiation 130 times greater than normal background levels, the statement said.

Russian law prohibits the transit of radioactive materials.

Ship Collision

HONG KONG (AP) -- A Russian man drowned and seven other crew were missing Wednesday after a dredging vessel collided with a container ship and overturned in waters off Hong Kong, police said.

An air and sea search was under way for the missing crew from the Hong Kong dredger A.M. Vella, including five Russians and two local people, near outlying Lantau Island. Six other Russian crew members were rescued shortly after the collision.

The body of the 50-year-old Russian, identified only by the surname Ignator, was found in the water early Wednesday by a passing ship, said police spokeswoman Suzanne Lee.

Early investigation showed the accident might have been caused by miscommunication between the two captains, who talked to each shortly before the collision, said Hong Kong's marine chief, Tsui Shung-yiu.

Mammoth Bones

VLADIVOSTOK, Far East (AP) -- Customs officers seized 100 rare mammoth bones from a Japanese businessman allegedly attempting to smuggle them to Japan, the State Customs Committee said Wednesday.

The bones, weighing a total of 2.3 kilograms, were confiscated at an airport in the far eastern city of Khabarovsk when the businessman was checking in for a flight to the Japanese city of Niigata.

The bones were carved into cylinders and were apparently intended for making stamps, the customs committee said in a statement.

The committee said the export of mammoth bones requires authorization from the Department for the Preservation of Cultural Values, which the businessman lacked.

The businessman said he had found the bones in his Khabarovsk office and planned to sell them in Japan, according to the statement.

Bure to Quit Russia

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russian ice hockey star Pavel Bure, who also plays for the Florida Panthers in the NHL, is retiring from international competition, a newspaper reported Tuesday.

"I feel I must leave now and give way to younger guys," Bure, 31, told Sport-Express. "The 2002 Winter Olympics showed there is no shortage of young and talented forwards on our team."

Russia earned what was seen as a disappointing bronze medal at the Salt Lake City Winter Games, after losing to the United States in the semifinals.