January 9, 2007 in Nation/World

Oil dispute leads to supply cutoff

The Spokesman-Review

A dispute between longtime allies Russia and Belarus over oil taxes escalated Monday, leading to a cutoff in the flow of crude oil through a pipeline serving European customers.

Officials in Minsk, the Belarusian capital, issued conflicting statements as to whether Belarus intentionally had stopped the flow of oil through the Druzhba (Friendship) Pipeline, which crosses Belarus to link Russia and the European Union. Later in the day, Russia said it had stopped supplying oil to the pipeline, blaming Belarus for the move.

The incident reignited a debate about the reliability of Russia as an energy supplier. The European Union relies on Russia for about 40 percent of its natural gas imports and about 30 percent of its oil imports.

The oil dispute was triggered by Russia’s new customs duty of $180 per metric ton on oil exports to Belarus. The tax took effect Jan. 1. Belarus retaliated by imposing a charge of $45 per ton for oil shipped through the pipeline to the European Union.

NABLUS, West Bank

Fatah militants free Hamas official

Fatah gunmen on Monday released a top Hamas official after holding him hostage for two days and displaying him in an al-Qaida like video, but factional tensions remained high as pro-Fatah militants torched stores owned by Hamas sympathizers.

The firebombings marked the first time that militants have targeted civilians in the West Bank, widening the political violence in the Palestinian areas.

Until this week, most of the violence centered on the Gaza Strip, where more than 30 people have been killed in clashes between forces loyal to the rival groups. But the kidnapping of Mahdi al-Hanbali, a top Hamas official in the West Bank’s commercial center of Nablus, was the strongest sign yet that fighting could soon reach the West Bank.

Fatah and Hamas have been in a vicious power struggle since the Islamic group defeated Fatah in parliamentary elections last year. Hamas controls the legislature and most government functions, while Fatah holds the powerful presidency.

WARSAW, Poland

Second cleric quits amid police scandal

A second prominent Catholic clergyman resigned Monday after allegations about his links to the communist-era secret police, and the prospect that more clerics may have been compromised threatened the church’s reputation as a bastion of opposition to the old regime.

A day after Warsaw’s new archbishop stunned the faithful by resigning minutes before his formal installation ceremony, the Rev. Janusz Bielanski resigned as rector of Krakow’s prestigious Wawel Cathedral, burial place to Polish kings and queens, Krakow church spokesman Robert Necek said.

Bielanski’s resignation was “in connection with repeated allegations about his cooperation with the secret services” of the communist era, Necek said. He added that Krakow’s archbishop, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, accepted the resignation.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

U.S. sub collides with merchant ship

A U.S. nuclear-powered submarine and Japanese merchant ship collided near the busy shipping lanes of the Straits of Hormuz, the U.S. Navy and Japanese government said today. No one was seriously injured.

Damage to the fast-attack USS Newport News submarine and the tanker was light and there was no resulting spill of oil or leakage of nuclear fuel, officials from U.S. Navy, Japanese and Emirates government said.

Both ships remained able to navigate, said a Navy official in Japan who requested anonymity because the details of the incident had not yet been released.

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