BRUSSELS - At least 134 media workers were killed on assignment in 2007, most of them in Iraq, which has become the most dangerous place for journalists since the start of the US-led war there, a media group said yesterday. The Middle East was by far the deadliest region with 68 killings, followed by Somalia with eight killed, Pakistan with seven, Mexico and Sri Lanka with six each, and the Philippines with five, according to the International Federation of Journalists. In addition to the 134 killings in 2007, 37 media workers died accidentally on the job, bringing the total number of deaths for the year to 171, the Brussels-based organization said. The numbers represented a slight decrease from 2006, when at least 177 deaths were reported worldwide. (AP)
Chavez to grant coup amnestyCARACAS - President Hugo Chavez granted amnesty yesterday to those accused of involvement in a failed 2002 coup that briefly drove him from power. Chavez said he signed an amnesty decree that would also pardon others accused in suspected attempts to overthrow the government or assassinate him. It was not immediately clear how many accused opponents would be affected by the amnesty. Chavez read aloud the law, which grants amnesty to those who signed a decree recognizing the interim government that briefly took power during the 2002 coup. (AP)
N. Korea misses nuclear deadlineSEOUL - North Korea failed to meet a year-end deadline to declare all its nuclear programs under an aid-for-disarmament deal, prompting disappointed reactions yesterday from South Korea, the United States, and Japan. The three countries, along with China and Russia, have been pushing North Korea to abandon its nuclear programs in a series of negotiations that began in 2003 and finally gained momentum in 2007. Washington and Seoul have said they believe the disarmament process, though falling behind schedule, is still on track. (AP)
Blogger who called for reform detainedJIDDAH - Saudi Arabia's most popular blogger, Fouad al-Farhan, has been detained for questioning, an Interior Ministry spokesman confirmed yesterday. It was the first known arrest of an online critic in the kingdom. Farhan, 32, who used his blog to criticize corruption and call for political reform, was detained "for violating rules not related to state security," according to the spokesman, Major General Mansour al-Turki, responding to repeated requests for comment with a brief cellphone text message. Farhan's Dec. 10 arrest was reported last week on the Internet and has been condemned by bloggers in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, and Bahrain. (
State media calls for US dialogueDAMASCUS - State-run media called yesterday on the United States to begin a direct dialogue with Syria, a day after an influential US senator said Washington could "bridge the gap" between Israel and Syria. Senator Arlen Specter held talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus on Sunday and said the Arab leader was ready to make peace with Israel but needed Washington's help. (AP)
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