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Relief fund will allow quick help

Fri., March 10, 2006

The United Nations on Thursday launched a $500 million disaster relief fund that will distribute cash in the days right after catastrophe strikes and deliver money to crisis areas that international donors often neglect.

Diplomats and U.N. officials said the Central Emergency Response Fund could save millions of lives by allowing relief workers to respond quickly to disasters without having to worry about borrowing cash or deploying resources they can’t pay for.

“As emergency relief coordinator, my life now is to send around a hat each and every time there is a new crisis and it may come back full or it may come back empty,” U.N. Emergency Response Coordinator Jan Egeland told a news conference.

The fund, which has pledges of $256 million so far, is meant to counter donor fatigue or imbalances in relief aid that have sometimes crippled the response to natural disasters.

The fund’s first disbursement of no more than $30 million will go to alleviate drought in the Horn of Africa, said Egeland.

Hackballscross, Ireland

Home of reputed IRA chief raided

More than 300 police backed by British and Irish troops mounted dawn raids Thursday on the home turf of Thomas “Slab” Murphy, reputedly the Irish Republican Army’s veteran chief of staff and its most lucrative smuggler.

The operation was by far the biggest ever mounted around Murphy’s farm and fuel distribution business. Its size underscored the importance officials place on prosecuting Murphy, who for decades has inspired fear and obedience in “bandit country,” the IRA’s lawless power base along the Northern Ireland border.

Police seized evidence of money laundering and fuel- and cigarette-smuggling, a trade authorities say is worth millions of dollars each year to the IRA and dissident groups.

Cairo, Egypt

Editor’s execution urged for cartoons

Lawyers for a cleric have urged a judge in Yemen to condemn to death a local editor who published the Danish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, the newspaper’s Web site said Thursday.

The editor of the Yemen Observer, Mohammed Al-Asadi, told the Associated Press he is being prosecuted by both the state and a prominent Islamic cleric, Sheik Abdulmajid al-Zindani, whom the United States has accused of supporting terrorism.

The Yemen Observer published thumbnail copies of some of the cartoons in its Feb. 4 edition, but it covered them with a thick black cross to show its disapproval. In two accompanying articles, the paper condemned the cartoons and reported reactions from across the Muslim world.

Editors of two other Yemeni papers that published the cartoons, Al-Ra’i al-Am and Al-Huriya, have also been charged with offending Islam. Their trials have not yet started.

It appeared unlikely that a court would hand down executions in any of these cases.


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