Nation/World

Pakistanis rally amid crackdowns

About 25,000 people rallied in Karachi against Prophet Muhammad cartoons Sunday while authorities rounded up scores of Islamic hardliners to stop them from demonstrating in another Pakistani city.

Pakistan banned anti-cartoon rallies in Lahore after several demonstrations turned deadly, but protests were allowed to go ahead in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and economic hub.

About 25,000 people joined the rally organized by a Sunni Muslim religious group, said Shaukat Shah, a Karachi police officer.

The protest was the biggest in the port city since 40,000 rallied there Feb. 16 against the cartoons, which first ran in a Danish newspaper.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan

Bush to urge peace in Kashmir

President Bush said he would use his visit to India and Pakistan this week to urge both sides to find a lasting solution to their dispute over Kashmir.

Kashmir is divided between the South Asian rivals but both claim the Himalayan region in full and have fought two wars over it.

Bush, who arrives in India on Wednesday and travels to Pakistan on Saturday, said that recent discussions with Pakistani counterpart Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh revealed that attitudes have changed since he first came to office in 2000.

BAIDOA, Somalia

Somali parliament convenes at home

Somalia’s transitional parliament met in a converted grain silo on Sunday for its first session in its own country in the 19 months since it was formed in neighboring Kenya.

The lawmakers gathered in their temporary seat of parliament in the southern town of Baidoa, using chairs and desks transported from Kenya by the United Nations. They met in Baidoa because it was deemed safer than the capital.

The assembly’s first meeting inside the country had been delayed by arguments over its location and whether peacekeepers were needed to provide security for the government’s return to Somalia.

Somalia has not had an effective central government since clan-based warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

CARACAS, Venezuela

Official says U.S. not only oil buyer

Venezuela could easily sell oil to markets other than the United States and is ready to end exports to its No. 1 buyer if needed, the oil minister said in comments published Sunday.

President Hugo Chavez’s government has recently stepped up threats to cut off oil exports to the United States and sell Venezuelan-owned refineries there amid rising tensions with the Bush administration.

Industry experts have said Venezuela would find it difficult to find alternative markets for its oil because the country’s heavy, highly sulfurous crude requires special refineries, which are limited. Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez dismissed those difficulties and said finding another buyer would be easy.

Venezuela supplied 10 percent of U.S. oil imports in November, the latest month for which U.S. figures are available.



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