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Blackouts hit shopping district

Blackouts caused by sweltering temperatures struck more than 3,000 businesses in London’s major shopping district and part of its transit network on Thursday, officials said.

High energy demand led to outages starting in the city’s central Soho district, said James Barber, a spokesman for energy company EDF in southeast England. Barber said the outages were due to a “highly unusual sequence of faults” at substations and in underground cables.

Temperatures on Thursday reached 86 degrees in central London, the Meteorological Office weather center said.


Finance minister to seek top job

Japan’s finance minister on Thursday became the first announced candidate to succeed Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumo, who plans to step down in September.

Sadakazu Tanigaki, who is seen as something of a long shot, said he would seek to soothe relations with Japan’s neighbors and bolster the economy.

Koizumi’s term as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party ends Sept. 30, and he has said he won’t run again. Whoever wins the party election is almost certain to be named prime minister by Parliament’s lower house.

Polls indicate Shinzo Abe, the chief Cabinet spokesman, is a strong favorite to replace Koizumi, though he has yet to announce his candidacy. Foreign Minister Taro Aso is also expected to run.

Kinshasa, Congo

Political rally turns deadly

At least two police officers were killed Thursday by a crowd outside a rally for a leading opposition candidate, witnesses said, as the buildup to Congo’s first multi-party election in more than 40 years turned violent. Several civilians were injured when police fired bullets and canisters of tear gas.

The incident came on a day filled with rising drama in advance of Sunday’s vote. A top militia leader in eastern Congo agreed to disarm. Catholic officials dropped their threat to boycott the election. And at least three children were killed in a fire at a makeshift barracks for troops affiliated with Jean-Pierre Bemba, one of the presidential candidates.

Bemba, a stocky former rebel leader and one of Congo’s four vice presidents, has emerged in recent weeks as among the leading candidates against incumbent Joseph Kabila, who is unpopular among many voters in Kinshasa, the capital.


Chinese criticize Dalai Lama honor

China has complained to the Canadian government about its decision to bestow honorary citizenship on the Dalai Lama, saying the gesture could harm relations.

Parliament adopted a motion on June 22 conferring the honorary status on the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. The honor has been awarded only twice before, to South African leader Nelson Mandela and Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved Jews from extermination during World War II.


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