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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

SARS Protection

MOSCOW (MT) -- Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov has ordered a major effort to disinfect the public transport system to prevent severe acute respiratory syndrome from spreading to the city, Interfax reported.

Speaking at a meeting of city government, police and health officials on Tuesday, the mayor said he would like all aircraft to be decontaminated as well. National carrier Aeroflot began disinfecting its planes last Friday.

Luzhkov advised Muscovites to avoid visiting Moscow's 13 so-called Chinese and Vietnamese markets. He promised to close down these markets if the disease enters the city.

He also urged the city's travel agencies to suspend sales of tours to Southeast Asia and Canada.

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov approved a governmental program to combat the spread of SARS on Monday, Kommersant reported.

Generals Testify

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Southern Russia (AP) -- Two generals began testifying Tuesday in the closely watched retrial of Colonel Yury Budanov for the murder of a young Chechen woman.

Prosecutor Vladimir Melovanov called Lieutenant General Valery Gerasimov and Major General Alexei Verbitsky to the stand. The two were to testify at a closed-door session of the North Caucasus Military Court because Melovanov said their testimony could reveal state secrets.

Gerasimov and Verbitsky were the superiors of Budanov, who admits to strangling 18-year-old Elza Kungayeva.

The North Caucasus court ruled in December that Budanov was temporarily insane at the time of the murder and therefore not criminally responsible. The Supreme Court overturned that decision in February and ordered a new trial.

Budanov's lawyer Alexei Dulimov said the generals did not provide any significant new information. However, he said they described Budanov as unusually nervous and temperamental -- observations that could support the defense's temporary insanity plea.

Itar-Tass reported, citing court sources, that Gerasimov testified Budanov had no right to detain Kungayeva or conduct a sweep of her village.

Armenia Elections

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) -- The head of a European observer mission in Armenia expressed hope Tuesday the country's parliamentary elections next month would be freer and more transparent than its recent presidential vote.

Robert Berry, head of an election observer mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said he hoped the OSCE's recommendations after the March presidential election would be put into practice.

The group said the March vote, in which President Robert Kocharyan won re-election, was marred by unbalanced reporting by the media and a lack of transparency in vote-counting. It also criticized the detentions of opposition activists during protests following voting.

Berry said 28 OSCE experts began working Tuesday in Armenia. Another 250 observers are to arrive for the vote.

Iran and Georgia

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) -- Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi met with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and other officials Tuesday.

Kharrazi said the talks would focus on security issues, including Georgia's lawless Pankisi Gorge. "The Pankisi Gorge is not a problem only for Georgia. It has great significance for neighboring countries as well," he said.