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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Ambassador Promoted

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea has appointed its ambassador to Russia, a seasoned diplomat who once accused the United States of planning a nuclear attack on his country, as its new foreign minister, the country's official media reported Friday.

Pak Ui Chun, 74, will succeed Paek Nam Sun, whose death was announced by the North earlier this year, the North's KCNA news agency said.

Pak served as North Korea's ambassador in several countries including Algeria, Lebanon and Syria before being appointed to Russia in 1998, according to data provided by South Korea. (Reuters)

Litvinenko Report Denied

LONDON -- British prosecutors denied a newspaper report Sunday that the foreign secretary was pressuring them not to charge two Russian suspects in the poisoning of former security agent Alexander Litvinenko.

Ken Macdonald, the head of public prosecutions, dismissed as untrue a News of the World report that said Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett told a meeting of COBRA, the government emergency committee chaired by Prime Minister Tony Blair, that prosecutors must not file charges because Britain could not afford to upset Moscow.

"It is completely untrue that the Crown Prosecution Service has come under any pressure from the Foreign Office in relation to the Alexander Litvinenko case," Macdonald said. "No decision has been taken in this case and we are still looking at the evidence." (AP)

'Plan to Circle Russia'

A U.S. plan to build a missile defense shield in Central Europe is part of a scheme to encircle Russia, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday.

Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice earlier in the week failed to bridge their long-standing differences over U.S. plans to put 10 missile interceptors in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic as part of a system to shield Europe from missile attack.

"These Czech and Polish locations perfectly fit into the overall global design of the American missile defense, which is surrounding the perimeters of the Russian borders," Lavrov told BBC World, speaking in English.

"If you keep them in Poland and the Czech Republic, it's a perfect place to intercept Russian ballistic missiles located in the northwest part of Russia." (Reuters)

1.8 Million Drug Addicts

Around 1.8 million people habitually use illegal drugs every year, a top official for the Federal Drug Control Service said Friday.

The number of people using drugs has stabilized in recent years, though the amount of illegal drugs confiscated has increased exponentially since the Federal Drug Control Service was created in 2003, Vladimir Zubrin, deputy head of the agency, told reporters, Interfax reported.

In the past four years, more than 100,000 people have been convicted on drug-related charges, Zubrin said. In 2003, only 30 percent of those convicted were actually sentenced to prison, while that number now is around 20 percent, Zubrin said. (MT)

Heroin Sent Via DHL

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan -- Tajik police have arrested a woman for trying to smuggle heroin in a refrigerator through express delivery firm DHL, the Interior Ministry said Friday.

The DHL office in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, grew suspicious after noticing that its transportation cost to Moscow exceeded the actual cost of the fridge by several times. It then called the police, the ministry said.

"We have arrested a 26-year-old woman who tried to send via DHL a refrigerator with a total of 17.4 kilograms of heroin hidden in its inner cover plate," said Interior Ministry spokesman Khudoinazar Asozoda.

DHL in Dushanbe said it could not comment on the matter. (Reuters)

Arms Depot Blast Kills 2

KIEV -- A missile explosion killed two workers and injured one other Friday at the Novobohdanivka ammunition depot, the Ukrainian Emergency Situations Ministry said.

The accident happened as the workers were trying to disarm the missile, ministry spokesman Ihor Krol said.

The Novobohdanivka arsenal caught fire in 2004, killing five people and setting off explosions of rockets and artillery ammunition that rained shrapnel and shook the region for days. A second, much smaller fire broke out in July 2005. Last year, a fire at the depot injured four. (AP)

Armenian Election Results

YEREVAN, Armenia -- Parties loyal to Armenian President Robert Kocharyan won a large majority in last week's parliamentary election, the Central Election Commission said Saturday, citing the first official results.

The Republican party, led by Prime Minister Serzh Sarksyan, who is the favored successor to Kocharyan, won 65 seats in the 131-seat parliament, it said.

The pro-presidential Prosperous Armenia party came second with 25 seats, followed by Dashnaktsutiun with 16.

Opposition parties Orinats Yerkir won nine and Heritage won seven seats. (Reuters)

For the Record

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is to visit Belarus on Monday and Tuesday. (AP)

Belarus has been defeated for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council after a campaign by the United States, key European countries and human rights groups against the country's repressive rights record. (AP)

Thousands of Crimean Tatars on Friday commemorated the 63rd anniversary of their deportation from the Black Sea peninsula under Stalin, a forced exile that lasted almost half a century. (AP)

A 24-year-old Ukrainian policeman suspected of driving drunk plowed his car into a sandbox in the western city of Lutsk, killing two children and injuring another, authorities said Friday. (AP)

An amusement park carousel caught fire in Estonia's southeastern town of Rakvere on Friday night, injuring at least 37 people. (AP)