YANGON, Myanmar

13 children die in mosque; police say blaze not criminal

Police in Myanmar said 13 children died when an electrical fire broke out at a mosque in the country’s largest city.

Police officer Thet Lwin said the blaze early Tuesday in Yangon was triggered by an overheated inverter “and not due to any criminal activity.”

Myanmar has been on edge since sectarian violence between Buddhists and Muslims erupted in the central city of Meikhtila in March, killing dozens of people and displacing more than 10,000.

Thet Lwin said the mosque in eastern Yangon sheltered about 75 orphans, and most escaped unharmed by running out a door after police knocked it open.

THE HAGUE, Netherlands

Search for deadly gas ends fruitless after three days

Dutch police spent three days digging up a field after receiving a tip that sarin may have been buried there, but they found no trace of the deadly nerve agent, a prosecutor’s office spokeswoman said Monday.

Two men and two women have been arrested in the case in the southern city of Maastricht on suspicion of owning and concealing a deadly gas, spokeswoman Cindy Reijnders said in a telephone interview.

She said police started monitoring a man’s movements last week after a tip and arrested him Friday as he was about to start digging in a field just outside Maastricht, a city close to the Dutch border with Belgium.

Reijnders said police have no indication that any sarin was about to be used in a terror attack.

Reijnders said police believe the four suspects may have been trying to sell the nerve agent for their own financial gain, although it remained unclear if they already had a buyer lined up.

SEOUL, South Korea

North Korean parliament approves economic reformer

North Korea’s parliament approved the appointment of a new premier seen by outside experts as an economic reformer one day after top party officials adopted a declaration making nuclear arms and a stronger economy the nation’s top priorities.

The U.S., meanwhile, made its latest conspicuous display of firepower, announcing it had sent F-22 stealth fighter jets to participate in annual U.S.-South Korean war games that Pyongyang calls preparation for an invasion. The new South Korean president, who has a policy meant to re-engage Pyongyang with talks and aid, told her top military leaders Monday to set aside political considerations and respond strongly should North Korea attack.

The re-emergence of Pak Pong Ju as premier at an annual spring parliamentary session is seen by analysts as a clear signal that leader Kim Jong Un is moving to back up recent vows to focus on strengthened economic development.

Pak was the North’s premier in 2003-2007, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry. He was fired because of a proposal for an incentive-based hourly, rather than monthly, wage system deemed too similar to U.S.-style capitalism, Japan’s Mainichi Shimbun newspaper reported in 2007.


Global arms treaty goes up for general assembly vote

The U.N. General Assembly is expected to vote today on what would be the first U.N. treaty regulating the multibillion-dollar international arms trade after Iran, North Korea and Syria blocked its adoption by consensus. Assembly spokesman Nikola Jovanovic said the resolution to adopt the treaty requires support from a majority of the 193 U.N. member states.

Since the treaty had strong support when it was brought before U.N. members last Thursday, its approval is virtually certain – unless there are attempts to amend it before the vote.

Iran said the treaty had many “loopholes,” is “hugely susceptible to politicization and discrimination,” and ignores the “legitimate demand” to prohibit the transfer of arms to those who commit aggression.

– From news service reports


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