World in brief: Abbas calls talks with Bush fruitless

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Friday he failed to achieve any progress in Middle East peace talks with President Bush and was returning home with little to show for his visit.

In an interview with the Associated Press, the Palestinian leader sounded pessimistic about the prospects of achieving any deal with Israel this year despite a big U.S. push that began five months ago at a summit in Annapolis, Md.

“Frankly, so far nothing has been achieved. But we are still conducting direct work to have a solution,” Abbas said.

Abbas said the biggest obstacle is Israel’s continued expansion of Jewish settlements on Palestinian-occupied territories.

“We demanded the Americans implement the first phase of the road map that talks about the cessation of settlement expansion,” Abbas said, expressing disappointment the U.S. hasn’t exerted more pressure on Israel to stop.


Four suicides latest in alarming wave

At least four people killed themselves Friday by inhaling fumes from a detergent mixed with other chemicals amid a wave of similar suicides that has reportedly claimed about 50 lives this month in Japan.

Authorities are alarmed by the sudden rise in such incidents – an average of two a day were reported in April – because the chemicals are easy to get and the fumes could spread to affect bystanders or rescuers.

A 47-year-old man killed himself Friday in a Tokyo luxury hotel, said Fire Department official Toshiyuki Miyake.

Officials said emergency workers also found a 29-year-old man dead in his Tokyo apartment; a man in his 50s at a public gymnasium in northern Tokyo; and a man in his 30s in an apartment in nearby Yokohama. All died after inhaling hydrogen sulfide gas, produced by mixing detergent and a bath lotion.

The government has been battling to contain the country’s alarmingly high suicide rate. The government said 32,155 people killed themselves in 2006. Japan has a population of 128 million.


Syrian envoy says CIA faked pictures

Syria’s ambassador to the United States said Friday that the CIA fabricated pictures allegedly taken inside a secret Syrian nuclear reactor and predicted that in the coming weeks the U.S. story about the site would “implode from within.”

“The photos presented to me yesterday were ludicrous, laughable,” Ambassador Imad Moustapha told reporters at his Washington residence.

However, he refused to say what the building in the remote eastern desert of Syria was used for before Israeli jets bombed it in September 2007.

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