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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Hunter Linked to Bird Flu

Investigators are probing whether a man who allegedly flouted a ban on hunting wildfowl was responsible for an outbreak of bird flu in the Siberian village of Maksimovka, emergency response officials said Wednesday.

Eighty-six chickens in the village, in the Omsk region, died in recent days. Epidemiologists confirmed the cause was bird flu, though they could not yet say whether it was the deadly H5N1 strain, Omsk emergency response officials said. (AP)

Pope and Orthodox Cleric

Metropolitan Kirill, the head of external relations for the Russian Orthodox Church's Moscow Patriarchate, will meet Pope Benedict on Thursday in the Vatican, officials said Wednesday, in a move seen as advancing sometimes thorny ties between the two churches.

Kirill will be one of the most senior clerics from the Russian Orthodox Church to meet Benedict since his election in April 2005.

Vatican officials said the meeting would take place. The Russian Orthodox Church, the largest in worldwide Orthodoxy, declined repeated requests for comment. (Reuters)

Nagorno-Karabakh Peace?

WASHINGTON -- Two State Department officials said they were optimistic about the possibility of a peace agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

"The two sides are closer to an agreement than they have been in the past," said Matthew Bryza, a State Department European affairs expert.

He spoke Tuesday at a meeting of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus.

A second State Department official, David Appleton, said one sign of progress is that the Azerbaijani government is asking the UN refugee agency to draw up plans for the return of the displaced to their homes once a peace deal is signed. (AP)

Lavrov on Sudan

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that the United Nations should only take over peacekeeping in Darfur from the African Union in consultation with Sudan's government, which has been opposed to the mission.

Speaking after talks with his Sudanese counterpart, Lam Akol, Lavrov said a UN Security Council resolution passed Tuesday pressing Sudan to cooperate with the proposed UN force did not remove the need for Khartoum's consent. (AP)

Uzbeks Close 2 Churches

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan -- The Uzbek government said Wednesday that it had closed down two Protestant churches in the central city of Samarkand -- the latest in a series of moves to expel foreign-funded institutions.

A Seventh-day Adventist church and a Protestant church run by a Korean pastor have been closed down for "regular violations" of the law on religious organizations and illegal proselytizing, the Justice Ministry said.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recently has mentioned Uzbekistan as one of the "countries of particular concern" engaged in "systematic and egregious" violation of religious rights. (AP)

AIDS Drugs Cheaper

KIEV -- Ukrainian Deputy Health Minister Valentyn Snisar said Wednesday that prices for AIDS and tuberculosis drugs have decreased 20-fold, crediting what he called effective measures to fight corruption.

Snisar claimed that corruption among top health officials under former President Leonid Kuchma, whose term ended in January 2005, led to the purchase of antiretroviral drugs at up to 27 times what they should have cost. Kuchma's decade in office was marred by corruption. (AP)

Yushchenko Seeks Coalition

KIEV -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko called on the parties engaged in coalition talks to work harder to reach an agreement, his spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Yushchenko's party has said that it wants to reunite with its 2004 Orange Revolution allies, the bloc of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and the Socialists.

Meanwhile, Viktor Yanukovych, who leads the pro-Russian opposition party that won the most votes in the election, criticized Tymoshenko's insistence that his party only receive low-level jobs in the new government. (AP)

700 Protest in Tbilisi

TBILISI, Georgia -- About 700 opposition demonstrators marched Wednesday across the Georgian capital to denounce the government and push for its resignation.

The rally participants accused President Mikheil Saakashvili's government of manipulating the nation's courts for political purposes. The protest, which ended in front of the parliament building, was led by a woman disguised as Justice sitting backward on a donkey -- a symbol of what demonstrators said was President Mikheil Saakashvili's unfair actions and abuse of law. (AP)

U.S.-Armenia in PC Deal

YEREVAN, Armenia -- The United States and Armenia on Tuesday signed an agreement under which the U.S. Agency for International Development will finance development of a computer network for the country's police.

Anthony Godfrey, the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan, said the $700,000 program is aimed at creating 120 computer work stations for police throughout the country. (AP)

Trademarking Smell of Pizza

VILNIUS, Lithuania -- The aroma of a freshly baked pizza is arguably as universally recognizable as that of a newly mowed lawn or a fresh cup of coffee.

But a Lithuanian restaurant chain now wants the intellectual property rights for the scent in the small Baltic nation, saying it is linked with its pizza pies.

"Opinion polls show that many consumers in Lithuania identify the pleasure of eating pizza with our trademark," said Mindaugas Gumauskas, marketing director of Cilija. "This makes us believe that the scent of freshly baked pizza is a subject to our copyright."

Cilija, which owns dozens of pizza parlors in Lithuania and Latvia, has asked the national patent bureau to register the intellectual property rights of the scent. The agency did not comment on the trademark request. (AP)