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Kurdish region holds election

Sulaimaniyah, Iraq – The Kurdish political establishment faced its first real test in an election Saturday for a president and 111-seat parliament in a semiautonomous region mired in a bitter dispute with Baghdad over oil and land that threatens Iraq’s stability.

Mainstream groups were widely expected to maintain their hold on power, but voters expressed hope a strong opposition challenge would lead to reforms amid allegations of corruption and financial improprieties among the entrenched political parties that have held sway in this northern area for decades.

At the heart of the push for reform was a group called “Change,” which is led by Nosherwan Mustafa, a former top official in one of the mainstream parties. Its success in campaigning forced an alliance between the two dominant parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party.

The opposition was expected to make some inroads in the parliament, but Iraq’s electoral commission said it could take a week to count the results.

North Korea opens first ‘burger’ shop

Seoul, South Korea – You still can’t get a hamburger in Pyongyang, but the suspiciously similar “minced beef and bread” is for sale at the North Korean capital’s first fast-food restaurant, a news report said Saturday.

The Samtaesong restaurant opened in the isolated communist country last month in cooperation with a Singaporean company, according to the Tokyo-based Choson Sinbo.

The restaurant’s interior appears to be styled after fast-food joints the world over, but the menu is careful not to call its signature fare a hamburger – lest it give the impression North Koreans had embraced the American icon.

North Korea’s authoritarian government is concerned that outside influences could undermine the regime and pose a threat to leader Kim Jong-il’s tight grip on the nation of 24 million.

But this is not the government’s first foray into foreign food. In March, the Choson Sinbo, widely considered a mouthpiece for the North Korean government, reported that Kim – a noted gourmand – had ordered the opening of the country’s first Italian restaurant. The chefs there were trained in Italy and food made with imported ingredients was served.


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