LONDON

Volcanic ash cloud closes Europe’s busiest airport

Europe’s busiest airport closed early today as a dense cloud of volcanic ash drifted across England from Iceland, aviation authorities said.

The airspace over London’s Heathrow Airport closed at 1 a.m. local time today, Britain’s National Air Traffic Service said in a statement late Sunday.

The restrictions affecting Heathrow will be in place until at least 7 a.m. today, the aviation authority said.

Airports across Britain and Ireland were closed for much of Sunday because of the drifting ash. The shifting of the no-fly zone southward will allow airports in northern England to reopen after 1 a.m.

But all airports in Northern Ireland, as well as some Scottish facilities, will remain shut.

In Ireland, Dublin’s international airport closed early Sunday evening until at least noon today.

The British air traffic agency said the ash cloud was changing shape and moving south, toward Oxford, 60 miles northwest of London. Britain’s weather service says the northwest winds should shift midweek, redirecting the ash away from Britain.

VIENNA

Hundreds of drug offenders executed yearly, report says

Hundreds of drug offenders are executed annually, and the number likely tops 1,000 if figures from countries that don’t disclose their death penalty data are included, a new report said today.

The number of states carrying out death sentences for drug offenses, however, appears to be declining while others are observing moratoria on all executions, according to the report by the International Harm Reduction Association.

Of the 32 states or jurisdictions around the world that have legislation allowing capital punishment for drug offenses, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia are most committed to carrying out the practice, the report said.

While China keeps its death penalty statistics a secret, its use of capital punishment is widely thought to “dwarf” the combined total of the rest of the world, the report said. The country’s tough counter-narcotics efforts and policies make it likely that a “sizable portion” of those executed each year are drug offenders.

BAGHDAD

Recount affirms victory for Sunni-backed bloc

Iraq’s electoral commission affirmed on Sunday the narrow victory of a Sunni-backed bloc in the March vote after a partial recount undercut the Shiite prime minister’s claims of fraud in the tally.

The result was a setback for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who came in second to former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi by a small margin. But his alliance with another Shiite bloc still gives him a strong chance of holding on to power for another four years.

The recount as well as other challenges to the March 7 election result have prevented the seating of the new 325-member parliament and raised fears that the extended period of political bickering will give rise to a new wave of violence as insurgents try to exploit the political vacuum as U.S. troops prepare to go home.