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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Pope Prays for Icon

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope John Paul II presided at a special prayer service Wednesday for an icon he is returning to Russia, expressing his hopes that the gesture will improve relations between Roman Catholics and Russian Orthodox Christians.

The Kazan icon, which has hung in the pope's private chapel since 1993, was carried into a Vatican auditorium in a procession and kissed by the pope. It is being put on public view before a Vatican delegation brings it to Moscow on Friday.

Uzbek Terror Threat

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (AP) -- Islamic militants wanted by Uzbek police for their alleged involvement in recent violence could strike again despite tightened security, a senior police official said Wednesday.

The comments came after the U.S. State Department said Tuesday that it had information that terrorists may be planning attacks in Uzbekistan in early September during the country's Independence Day celebrations.

Georgian Accusations

MOSCOW (AP) -- A Georgian lawmaker accused Russia of moving tanks and helicopters near its border with Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia and warned that Russian aggression is unavoidable.

Givi Targamadze, chairman of the Georgian parliament's defense and security committee, showed camera footage to journalists of Russian military equipment gathered near the Roksky Tunnel on the Georgian-Russian border. The tunnel is controlled by South Ossetia.

In Moscow, the Defense Ministry called the allegations "inventions" and said that a long-planned military exercise under way in North Ossetia had been misinterpreted as a buildup.

Hopes for North Korea

MOSCOW (AP) -- The Foreign Ministry said it believes that North Korea remains committed to a negotiated settlement on its nuclear activities despite its refusal to attend preparatory meetings ahead of disarmament talks.

"We assume that [North Korea] still stands for a peaceful, negotiated solution to the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula, as has been repeatedly stressed by Pyongyang," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday.

EU Presses Ukraine

BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Union on Wednesday urged Ukraine to halt plans to extend a canal through the environmentally sensitive Danube delta, warning that the project risked harming EU relations with the country.

The EU issued a statement "deeply regretting" reports Ukraine had opened part of the canal to shipping on the weekend.

The project also drew criticism last week from the U.S. State Department and sparked protests Tuesday by hundreds of environmentalists in Romania, which shares the delta with Ukraine.

Tajik Media Concerns

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (AP) -- The United States expressed concern Wednesday over a crackdown on media freedom in Tajikistan after several independent and opposition newspapers were forced out of print.

The Jiyonkhon printing house was closed by authorities last week over a tax violation. It was the only Tajik printing company that would print the independent Ruzi Nav and Nerui Sukhan papers and the opposition paper Najot. The papers said the move was an attempt to silence them ahead of next year's parliamentary elections.